Fitness Beyond 50: Intensity Trumps Time

We’re all creatures of habit. We like to do things that we’re comfortable with based upon having done them in the past. It’s a lot easier to do that than undertake something new, something outside of our comfort zone.

When confronted with useful information that runs counter to our normal behavior, the easy way to deal with it is, “Maybe that’s a good idea; I’ll consider it next week (or month or year).

Fitness industry professionals use the acronym “FIT,” which stands for Frequency, Intensity and Time. We, of course, need all three; we need to exercise regularly, some of the time at a high intensity level, and we need to do it long enough to have an impact on our fitness.

Where many of us fall short is in the intensity of our exercise. If walking is a regular form of exercise, we proceed at a standard pace, something like three miles per hour. We focus much more on the frequency and time versus the intensity. If we lift weights, we use light or medium weights and do the number of repetitions that we’ve become comfortable with.

The reality is that intensity trumps time. We can accomplish much more if we spend part of the time working at a pace where we can’t carry on a conversation. We need to be breathing hard, sweating, looking forward to when it’s over.

Lots of research has shown that exercise that includes some time at a higher intensity level trumps a longer workout at a more relaxed pace every time. It’s more demanding, more effective at improving our cardiovascular system, more tiring and more satisfying; everything except more fun. Who said everything has to be fun?

Let’s say you normally walk for an hour for a total of three miles or so Set a goal of spending ten minutes of the hour working at varying intensity levels called intervals. Spend one minute walking as fast as you can, then slow down to your normal pace for four minutes, and then do it again. You’ll feel the difference right away.

Remember that the goal is to improve your health and fitness, not just have a nice walk with your friend or your dog. By the way, both friend and dog will benefit from doing intervals too.

This entry was posted in Aerobics, Fitness Beyond 50. Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Fitness Beyond 50: Intensity Trumps Time

  1. Caroline nielsen says:

    Generally good advice Harry. But many people in our age group have cardiovascular disease (including me in spite of a lifetime of exercise and healthy eating and no family history). My cardiologist has advised against intense exercise, rather advised me to do moderate or low exercise for longer period of time. Intense exercise apparently could easily lead to a heart attack. Just something to think about… Always enjoy your articles! Caroline

    • Harry says:

      I too often to forget the qualifier on articles like this – with your doctor’s approval. Thanks for the reminder.

  2. Janet says:

    I totally agree with this philosophy and have seen great results. I try to get in about 1 hour of high intensity interval exercise every day — preferably in the morning. When I am able to do this in the morning, I have more energy for it and it also sets me up for the entire day feeling great. My whole outlook on life is better after a workout like this. I love being outside walking, bicycling, hiking, swimming so this adds a lot of variety to my workouts. 2-3 times a week, I add weight training and I have recently added more weight and less reps. I was noticing that I was becoming “comfortable” with my old routine. Time will tell how successful I am with this new routine of heavier weights. I do worry about getting hurt with the heavier weights so I may hire a trainer for 1 day a week at my local Y.

    • Harry says:

      Good comments, Janet. A trainer is an excellent idea. I used a new one a week ago, could hardly walk the next day due to sore muscles. She got me to do exercises that challenged muscles that had not been challenged for too long. I’m going to see her twice a month for the season.

Comments are closed.