Wednesday, April 1, 2009

At least 2 hours of high intensity exercise per day required to gain benefit.....April Fools!!

Many people out there are still under the impression that a veritable TON of exercise, lasting a long, long time, is required if you even have a snowball's chance in Jamaica to get some real benefit for your heart. Thoughts of what is necessary often conjure up images of you slaving away for hours on a treadmill or elliptical machine, eyes darting back and forth between the "calories burned" and "pulse rate" monitors, as you search for validation of the supreme effort you are putting forth.

Well don't despair! Some new research continues to support the notion that running on a treadmill until the cartilage in your knees has thinned to rice paper consistency may not be necessary. In fact some research suggests that large amounts of cardiovascular exercise may actually do more harm than good.

Quality vs. Quantity

A recent study took a fresh approach to exercising for disease prevention. Sixteen inactive men in their early twenties took part in the program, which consisted of short, all-out bouts of sprinting on a stationary bicycle alternating with periods of rest. During each session, the men sprinted for 30 seconds against a resistance, rested for enough time to recover, then repeated three to five repetitions of the same sprint/rest sequence. These sessions were repeated three times each week, bringing the grand total of time spent actively exercising to 7 minutes per week (or about 20 minutes, three times per week, including the rest time), with total calories spent doing so to about 250.

Following two weeks of this exercise training, all men showed significant improvements in insulin sensitivity compared with the beginning of the study, meaning that their ability to process sugar (glucose) from a meal improved by adhering to the program. Three other measures of glucose metabolism also improved, demonstrating that short bouts of intense exercise can have a profound effect on cardiovascular and diabetes risk factors.

The study's authors concluded, “This novel, time-efficient training paradigm can be used as a strategy to reduce metabolic risk factors in young and middle-aged sedentary people who otherwise would not adhere to time consuming traditional exercise regimens."

In other words, it doesn't take much! The neatest thing of all is that you can take this formula and apply it to nearly any exercise that suits your fancy and fitness level. The key is the mixture of approximately 3o seconds of exercise with enough intensity that you really couldn't do much more, followed by a period of rest in order to recover, and repeating this sequence a few times.

For some this could mean all out sprints plus brisk walking to recover, for others this could mean brisk walking plus standing in place to recover. Others might even find benefit from simply standing in place and swinging your arms like you are sprinting, then resting. The possibilities are endless!! I would actually recommend choosing from a variety of exercises and just applying these principles to each one on a different day.

If you are totally new to exercise or in pretty poor shape, I would encourage you to speak to your doctor or at least a trainer before embarking on this plan. If you don't want to then start off very gently.

Is Extreme Cardio Even Good For You?

I have been an exercise fanatic for a long time, but I have to say my views and approach to it have changed drastically over time. I used to think a lot like the way I poked fun at above-
ie. cardiovascular exercise is king and the more of it the better. In fact, I used to workout about 2 hours a day, sometimes at extremely high levels for nearly the whole time. And, guess what, I got sick a lot more often than I do now. These days, my workouts take anywhere from 10-30 minutes. Just about the only time I do straight exercise for longer than that is when I play basketball once a week, and I always feel bad afterwards (too bad I'm addicted).

However, not only is there research supporting the idea that we can derive benefit from the new style of exercise I have described thus far, there is a lot of opinion and research out there suggesting this style of exercise is much better for your health.

In fact, nowadays I cringe when I hear a friend or patient tell me they are training to run a marathon. Surely they are doing it because from what they understand it is an ultimate test of endurance and completing one means they are in supreme physical condition. Again, recent research is now suggesting these people are actually putting themselves in danger by pursuing such activities.

Here are some great resources for starting an exercise program that will be safe and beneficial for you:

If you prefer to exercise at home and keep things simple the various routines recommended in the book TBK Fitness, by Tamir Katz, are great. I often do these sorts of workouts when I travel. There are a wide variety of exercise routines suggested that will fit nearly every fitness level, and he also gives a wonderful description of how to eat the healthiest diet on the planet.

If you are in the Portland area and prefer to exercise in a group or even get some private lessons with a high quality trainer who will teach you what I deem to be the absolute BEST exercise methods I have come across yet, check out

And get some rest wouldja???

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