How To Get Healthier Faster

When it comes to getting healthy, particularly through exercise, the message has long been “slow and steady wins the race”. But is it really? New research is showing that it’s entirely possible to get the same results in a third of the time that most people spend at the gym.

According to Canadian researchers at Queen’s University, exercising for just 4 minutes a day can be as effective as 30 minutes of cardio exercise. So long as it is the right type of exercise. Metabolic conditioning (met cons) or High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) has become the new buzzword around the fitness world, due to its high intensity training with fewer rest periods which increases the storage and delivery of energy. It also burns more fat than traditional aerobic activity.

What is HIIT?

Typically HIIT exercise involves a group of movements that train the entire body to ensure that you are getting a full body workout. They are done as a series with very short rest periods.

Due to these short rest periods the exercises can be hard. They involve pushing your heart rate up very high which causes you to burn more calories.

Dr Anton van Rensburg says that it is this “sweet spot”, known as the aerobic threshold that produces the most benefits as it allows us to access our growth hormone. By age 30, most people begin to have a deficiency in this hormone, which can  reduce our ability to heal, cause muscle loss, increase fat storage, and pose a greater risk for cardiovascular disease as well as lowering our life expectancy – in short, all the symptoms for ageing.

The good news, says van Rensburg, is that exercising with HIIT even for just a few minutes a day can reduce mortality rates, increase bone density, and reduce the risk for cardiovascular disease.

According to van Rensburg HIIT activities like running and cycling – anything that uses your whole body and gets your heart rate up to its aerobic threshold which is at around 70-80% of your heart’s maximum heart rate is ideal.

This varies according to people’s age and fitness level – typically for people below 30 it’s around 170-180 beats per minute, and 160-170 for those over 30 – the formula is roughly 220 minus your age – give or take 10 to 20 beats due to your age, health, and fitness levels.

It’s best to check this with your doctor to be sure. Van Rensburg cautions against getting your heart rate to anywhere near the 200 mark as you could raise your risk of heart attack.

Optimum health in a third of the time

UK-based exercise scientists have reached similar conclusions according to a study published in the Journal of Physiology. The current recommendation from the World Health Organisation (WHO) says that healthy adults should do three to five hours of endurance training per week for optimum health and longevity, whereas their study shows that the same level of benefit can be achieved in a third of the time, so long as users replace endurance training with two types of interval training, HIIT and Sprint Interval Training (SIT).

Researchers believe that these two types of exercise will prove to be suitable methods to prevent blood vessel disease, hypertension, diabetes, and most of the other ageing and obesity-related chronic diseases.

SIT is more targeted towards young and healthy individuals, according to researcher Sam Shepherd, due to the high workload of the sprints which involves 4 to 6 repeated 30 second ‘all out’ sprints on special laboratory bikes, interspersed with 4.5 minutes of very low intensity cycling.

HIIT, however, can be performed by anyone, and it doesn’t matter the age or fitness. Typically these exercises involve 15-60 second bursts of high intensity such as running, jumping, cycling, or dancing (at a fast pace), interspersed with 2-4 minute intervals of low activity like cycling or walking. They can also be performed anywhere – outside, at gym, or at home – making exercise available to anyone.

Van Rensburg concludes, everything we know about exercise is changing, and getting the same benefits in less time is definitely one of them.


HowKE Team

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