Ever feel like you don’t have enough time to workout? Lack of time is one of the major barriers people face in sticking to an exercise routine. Well, get ready for some action, because a wealth of recent research shows that doing shorter stints of vigorous exercise , or ‘High Intensity Training’, can give you exactly same health benefits as longer, conventional exercise routines.
HOW LONG TO EXERCISE FOR?
This depends of the intensity of the exercise.
The famous High Intensity Training (HIT) made famous by Dr. Michael Mosely last year requires you to put in maximum effort for just 2.5 minutes. This comprises of 5 x 30 second bursts of completely flat out pedalling on an exercise bike, getting your heart rate to at least 85%, with 60 seconds to collapse and recover in between. This takes 17.5 minutes and is recommended twice-weekly, so you’re only exercising just over half an hour each week.
However, this all-out intensity may not be for everyone. For those not in the greatest health, or those in older age groups, more modest high- intensity programmes can be followed which have still been shown to give great health benefits whilst saving hours of time. For example, one recommended routine requires 10 x 1 minute bouts of fast pedalling (i.e. not completely flat out), with 1 minute intervals.
The main conclusion the research points to is that we can all benefit from short bursts of vigorous exercise, interspersed by rest periods. NHS guidelines recommend 75 minutes of very intense aerobic activity each week. Don’t panic if you haven’t got an exercise bike. You can incorporate this into many exercises, such as running, road cycling, swimming, and running up and down stairs. Even general house or garden work done at a vigorous level counts! Basically, include any exercise which raises your heart level to between 75% and 100%.
WHAT ARE THE HEALTH BENEFITS?
A few minutes of vigorous exercise each week could bring you:
Reduced risk of chronic diseases –whilst brisk walking reduces breast cancer risks, only more vigorous exercise offers maximum protection against prostate and colon cancers. Studies also show that the more intense the exercise, the lower the risk of cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes. Further research has even suggested that high intensity training could repair heart attack damage.
Reduced insulin levels –studies have shown insulin levels drop by almost 25 percent with just 3 minutes of HIT a week.
Higher sperm count – regular intense activity each week raises men’s sperm levels by up to 73%, compared with those who do mild exercise, according to Harvard University research.
Weight loss – many of the benefits are due to the effect of intense exercising getting rid of fast from the blood faster. Exercising at peak levels for brief periods of time (30 seconds) is effective at reducing blood fat levels by up to 33%, compared with walking which reduced it by 11%. You can also burn up to 200 calories a day by doing HIT for 2.5 minutes each week. Just a few minutes could make a significant reduction in your calorie intake each week.
Great for children - The benefits are not just for adults. Research shows that just 7 minutes each day of high-intensity activity is needed to improve children’s fitness levels and prevent obesity .
Despite the many benefits, intense exercise may not be for everyone. Not surprisingly, current health advice is that anyone unused to exercise, in an older age group, or has an underlying medical condition, seeks medical advice before starting exercising vigorously. Pregnant women, in particular, have been cautioned not to exercise intensely in the last 2 trimesters.
THE ENJOYMENT FACTOR
The downside to intense workouts is having to get yourself motivated to do the exercise. Going at it flat out is a harsh way to work out and many people will be tempted to delay the pain! If you can find some external help by partnering up with someone who can shout encouraging words at you then you just might make it.
In the long term people will only continue with exercise which is enjoyable. So the most important question to ask yourself is which workouts do you LIKE doing? Curiously however, many studies have shown that people do enjoy doing the intense sessions, even preferring them to their usual workouts.
Then there’s the social aspect. Will these 3 minute bite-sized workouts mean we stop participating in other sports or going to the gym? It’s unlikely. Vigorous exercising enables us to reduce the length of any tedious, dull workouts, but also frees up more time to do more of the activities we enjoy.
The most important thing to remember is that although intense workouts are worth doing, for optimal health you must incorporate other exercise too. Ensure your weekly workouts also include strength training, core exercises and stretching. This variety will also help you to enjoy your exercise, which is probably the most important thing of all.
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