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Cardiovascular training is commonly debated in the research on whether long, endurance type training or high intensity interval training is better for improving cardiovascular fitness. Many older adults prefer walking for long distances and try to stay away from interval type training. An easy way to track intensity is by using heart rate, or more specifically your heart rate reserve (HRR). Heart rate reserve is the difference between estimated maximal heart rate based off your age and your resting heart rate. According to American College of Sports Medicine Guidelines, they recommend starting at ~60% of your HRR and progress to ~80% HRR. However, this is in healthy older adults and may change if you are dealing with any chronic condition. Please contact us for a consultation if you do have any underlying health conditions for an individualized conditioning program.

Below is a simple to follow 6-week, high intensity interval training conditioning program. It is important to note that if you at any time feel lightheaded, dizzy, short of breath or any chest pain to please seek a medical professional or contact us for advice.

How to get your resting heart rate

To measure your heart rate, simply check your pulse. Place your index and third fingers on your neck to the side of your windpipe.

To check your pulse at your wrist, place two fingers between the bone and the tendon over your radial artery — which is located on the thumb side of your wrist.

When you feel your pulse, count the number of beats in 15 seconds. Multiply this number by four to calculate your beats per minute.


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Heart Rate Reserve Calculator

Goal work intensity: 60-70% HRR

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The Program:

Warm-up for at least 5 minutes at a light to moderate intensity before doing the high intensity intervals. You can perform the high intensity intervals on any cardio equipment (bike, treadmill, rower, cross trainer) if you can monitor your HR response. Only progress through the weeks if you are not experiencing any symptoms like lightheadedness, dizziness, short of breath or chest pain.

If you cannot measure your heart rate during the exercise, you can use a rating of perceived exertion (RPE). RPE is a measure of how hard you perceive the exercise to be. It is a 0-10 scale, with 0 being how you would feel at rest and 10 being the most intense exercise you have ever done. Please see to the picture on the right for more on the RPE scale:

WeekFrequency (per week)Duration (minutes)Interval: rest Ratio (s)Intensity of Interval (HRR)Intensity of Interval (RPE)
1212 (8 intervals)30s:60s60%5
2312 (9 intervals)40s:40s60%5
3316 (12 intervals)40:4060%5
4314 (12 intervals)40:4070%6
5316 (12 intervals)40:4070%6
6316 (12 intervals)40:4080%7

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