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Over 40? Don't Miss This Killer Lean-Body Exercise Trick

Don’t feel up to HIIT? Here’s how to try the more joint-friendly HILIT.
FACT CHECKED BY Alex Daniel

It's simply a fact that if you want to burn as much fat as you can in the shortest conceivable amount of time, you need to do high-intensity interval training (HIIT). For proof, know that according to a meta-analysis of more than 786 exercise studies published in The British Journal of Sports Medicine, interval training, when compared to moderate-intensity exercises such as brisk walking or running, was found to be vastly superior for burning fat and getting lean.

"Interval training and [moderate-intensity training] both reduce body fat percentage," concluded the researchers. "[However,] interval training provided 28.5% greater reductions in total absolute fat mass."

The major downside to performing rapid-fire bouts of HIIT—especially for people who are in their 40s and 50s and older—is that it's really vigorous exercise that's super high-impact. "High-impact means that there are jumping and explosive movements that happen that apply pressure or impact to your joints," explains Bethany Stillwaggon, ACSM-CPT, a Master Coach at Row House.

As we've reported here at ETNT Mind+Body, many trainers will tell you to avoid HIIT when you advance in years—especially if you're over 50. "I'm a trainer who works almost exclusively with aging populations, and I'm over 60 myself," says Doug Setter, CPT, welterweight kickboxing titleholder, and author of several fitness books. "There are types of training that individuals in mid-life need to be especially careful about. HIIT training has been on my list for some time because it can cause injury—and it blew out my knee before a marathon."

But what if we told you that there's a newer variation of HIIT that makes it far more joint-friendly and kinder to those with aging bodies? If that sounds appealing to you, we'd like to introduce you to High-Intensity Low-Impact Training, also known as HILIT.

"HILIT is the latest workout trend for those who want to burn fat and get lean but may have joint problems or can't jump," says Josh Schlottman, C.S.C.S., a trainer and exercise physiologist. "For many, jumping places too much impact on their body and can hurt their knees and ankles. High impact cardio is painful for many in middle-age, but they're still looking to get a great high energy sweaty workout. This is where High Intensity Low Impact Training comes in."

So how do you do it? Well, you apply the principles of HIIT-style workouts—greater intensity, shorter resting periods—but you only perform exercises that are low-impact. Instead of doing sprints on a track or a treadmill, you'd perform those sprints on a stationary bicycle. Instead of doing high-impact moves such as burpees, you'd do kettlebell swings, battle-rope exercises, and performing intervals on an elliptical machine. One amazing machine that's perfect for HILIT is an erg, or rowing machine.

Ultimately, these are all joint-friendly ways to exercise that will get your heart rate soaring when you fire up the intensity. What follows is a great example of a 30-minute HILIT routine, courtesy of Row House's Stillwaggon. So read on, and consider giving it a go. And for more great exercise advice, don't miss the One Secret Exercise Trick That's So Easy You Won't Believe it Works.

The 34-Minute HILIT Workout

Part 1: Warmup

Row for 5 minutes. "It will work 86% of your muscles and is self-paced, so you change the intensity," says Stillwaggon. "Row at a variety of intensities, changing every minute or so, to keep the heart rate at an ever-changing rate."

Part 2: Bodyweight Floor Work

Do 10 reps of the following for as many rounds as you can in 7 minutes:

Squats

Walkouts

Alternating Lunges

Plank Climbers

Pushups

Butterfly Situps

Part 3: Ladder Row

Get back on your erg for 10 minutes for a "Ladder Row," meaning you'll increase the intensity of your strokes every 20 strokes, until you've reached 10 minutes. "This is very taxing on your body and challenging for the endurance of your body and mind," says Stillwaggon.

Part 4: Weights

For 5 minutes, do four rounds of these two exercises, each at 10 reps per round:

Deadlift + Upright Row

Weighted Squat

Part 5: The Finish

Hop back on your rower and power your hardest for 7 minutes.

Part 6: The Cool Down

Do some stretching.

And for more amazing exercise tips, be sure to read Secret Side Effects of Walking After a Meal.

William Mayle
William Mayle is a UK-based writer who specializes in science, health, fitness, and other lifestyle topics. Read more