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Get fit in less time with smarter treadmill workouts: these gym machines boost intensity and your cardiovascular health.

The gym treadmill is one of the best fitness tools for seniors. Its handrails, smooth surface, inside environment, and versatility make it a safe and easy way for older adults to get their minimum 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise per week.

"Treadmills can target the key muscle groups that seniors need to strengthen to increase balance and endurance, such as the quadriceps, calves, glutes, hamstrings, and even the arms," says Teri Toufanian, PT, with UCLA Outpatient Rehab Services. "They can improve cardiovascular health by helping you work at greater intensities, and can be used for either walking or running, depending on your fitness level."

While treadmills can seem boring and repetitious, there are ways to create more interesting and beneficial workouts beyond the standard push-the-button-and-walk kind. The following three routines revolve around a standard 15- to 20-minute workout. The intensity levels are based on a Rate of Perceived Exertion of one to 10 with one being low and 10 being high.

Warm-ups are done at a rate of three to four, which translate to a low-to-moderate intensity level. The high point of the workouts are performed at a five to seven rate, which is a moderate-to-high intensity level, where you work hard but can maintain a conversation and do not overexert yourself.

As with all exercise, you should check with your doctor or physical therapist before beginning any new exercise routine. Also, consult with a professional trainer to review all your treadmill functions and safety features.

Speed variation. One advantage to treadmills is that it's easy to control your speed. "Varying your speed during your workout can increase your heart rate, and thus help to improve your cardiovascular health, by pushing you beyond your comfort zone," says Toufanian.

* The speed workout: Choose one of the pre-programmed workouts like fat burning or cardio. After a five-minute warm-up at a rate of four, increase the speed until you are between five and seven, and stay there for 10 minutes. (Slow down or shorten the time if you feel weak or overly fatigued.) Finish with a five-minute cool-down at a rate of four or lower.

High-intensity intervals. High-intensity interval training (HUT] involves altering between periods of highly intense work and rest for a set amount of time. The highly intense part is based on 80 to 90 percent of your maximum heart rate, while the rest period is about 40 to 50 percent. (Subtracting your age from 220 determines your maximum heart rate. For example, a 60-year-old would have a maximum heart rate of 160 beats per minute--220 minus 60.) Many treadmill machines have built-in heart-rate sensors on the handrails to help you monitor your work and rest periods. Another way to measure is to work at a perceived rate of six to seven and rest at a rate of three to four.

HUT has been shown to promote greater subcutaneous fat loss (the layer found directly under the skin and used to estimate total body fat), enhance cardiovascular health, improve insulin sensitivity and lower blood pressure. Plus you can receive the benefits in half the time of traditional steady-pace workouts.

"Seniors may think HUT is too intense for them, but the intensity is based on the individual's maximum heart rate, so you are working at a level that is best suited for you and no one else," says Toufanian.

* The intensity workout: Begin with short bouts of high intensity and longer rest periods, such as a 1:3 ratio, in which you work for one minute and rest for three minutes. "If this is too much, begin with a 30-second work period and a longer rest period until you build up your endurance," says Toufanian.

After a five-minute warm-up, do a work-rest cycle for five to 10 minutes, followed by a five-minute cool-down. As you improve, you can increase the ratio to 1:2, 1:1, and eventually can work for longer periods and have shorter rest periods.

Incline. Incline workouts generate greater muscle activity since you are working against gravity. Walking at an incline can offer benefits comparable to running on a flat surface.

* The incline workout: Begin at a zero grade incline at a three to four rate and then increase the incline to level 1 and stay there for one to two minutes. Then increase it another level and stay there another minute or so.

Repeat the process until you gradually reach an incline level where you work at a six to seven rate, and maintain it for a minute or longer or until you reach 10 total minutes. Reverse the routine and gradually go down to zero. "As your endurance improves, you can move quickly to the higher levels and stay there longer," says Toufanian.
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Title Annotation:EXERCISE
Publication:Healthy Years
Date:Mar 1, 2015
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