If you train with us, chances are you already know about the benefits of high-intensity interval training. After all, these short, intense and hella sweaty workouts are what BodyRock is built on. They're what thousands of BodyRock bodies have been built on.
So, the benefits of HIIT are likely not new to you, but what is new is that scientists have recently discovered that higher intensity training can not only accelerate fat loss and improve heart health in as little as a few minutes, but it can also improve your bone health as you age.
HIIT and Bone Health
Let’s take a look at the research: 69 male sprinters between the ages of 40 and 85 had their tibial bones imaged in two sessions, 10 years apart. Participants who had continued to do their sprint and strength training had second images that showed that not only had they maintained their bone strength, but some of them even showed improved bone strength.
Lead study author Tuuli Suominen, PhDc, of the Faculty of Sport and Health Sciences at the University of Jyväskyla in Finland, commented, “The adaptability of aging bone can be maintained into older ages and age-related bone deterioration may be counteracted."
She went on to say that bone density and strength is lost as we age due to reduced physical activity—strenuous, higher-intensity activity specifically.
“For many, if not most, older people, there are no contraindications for higher-impact exercise unless there are considerations with lower physical function,” she says.
How Long Does it Take to Improve Bone Health with HIIT
While the people in this study were monitored at the 10 year mark, it doesn't take a decade to improve bone health. Previous studies have shown improvement in as little as 20 weeks.
What's more, other benefits of HIIT, like reactive strength neurological improvements, can be seen in little time as well. These neurological benefits are important, because they can improve your mobility and balance, which also decrease with age.
"We act like older adults are so fragile, and they can't handle impact or it will destroy their bones and joints, but we've found the opposite is true.Unfortunately, many older people, especially women, are given medication to increase bone mass as the first line of defense. Those can play a role and may be needed in some situations, but believing that’s the only way to build bone is incorrect," says Belinda Beck, a researcher at Griffith University in Australia and director of The Bone Clinic, a health service focusing on bone, muscle, and joint health.
Beck's team conducted a study of 100 women where half did high-intensity training and half did lower intensity training. Within a few months, the high intensity group saw improvements in bone density, whereas the lower intensity group saw none.
Remarkably, a follow up with participants six years later revealed that the people in the high-impact group had maintained their bone density gains, even if they'd stopped with the high-impact exercise.
This means that the benefits of HIIT are long-lasting.
How to Start HIIT for Bone Health
If you're already doing HIIT, just keep doing what you're doing. If you're looking to start—at any age—start slowly with bodyweight moves only.
HIIT requires coordination and agility, so loading up with weights should not be the first order of the day. Rather, you should work on developing those attributes.
We—and other experts—recommend starting with step ups onto a stable surface (like our Step Riser) and skipping (you can snag our Weighted Speed Rope, which makes learning to skip easier, for an amazing price now).
Jumping in and out laterally is also a good move, and you can add Core Bands around your thighs when you're ready to increase the challenge and see more results.
All this said, check with your doctor before beginning any new workout routine, especially if you have health concerns or biomechanical issues, like joint problems.
You can also sign up for a free trial of BR+ and get access to thousands of HIIT workouts to start or continue your foray into a lifetime of better bone health and all around fitness.
Want to try it first?
Try this series below with BodyRock Trainer Mike Levine. It's a perfect intro to HIIT and Day 1 is available for FREE! Sign up to continue.