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Exercise at higher intensity and get faster results

Exercise at higher intensity and get faster results 960 640 Geoff

Burn more calories in less time, build lean body tissue and increase your metabolic rate.

You do not need to spend hours to get a great benefit from exercise. In fact, research shows that long, slow cardiovascular workouts (walking, jogging, slow cycling) can be counterproductive to weight loss goals (through sustained elevated cortisol levels and low relative energy expenditure) and can result in chronic inflammation and repetitive strain injury.

Short, sharp exercise sessions at an appropriately high intensity can yield significant benefits in a fraction of the time.  A 5-10 minute properly designed high intensity exercise session will have far more benefit than a long slow, steady state exercise session.

What is high intensity? To be considered intense, the exercise must be quite challenging to your musculoskeletal and cardiovascular system. You should become “breathless” to the point where you will have difficulty carrying on even a simple conversation and your limbs may become heavy to the point where you approach failure (can’t do the activity anymore). Your heart rate will approach maximum. Intensity is relative to the level of fitness of the person undertaking the exercise and their existing level of fitness.

sled push woman pushing weights workout exerciseInterval Training – the secret to training at higher intensity

The higher the level of intensity of the exercise, the shorter the duration of that exercise will be before we reach failure. Using intervals will ensure that we tap into the significant benefits of high intensity exercise. Interval training gives structure to an exercise session so that it becomes highly effective.

Interval training simply requires that we exercise at high intensity for a period of time (the work interval) and then rest, or recover for a period of time (recovery interval) before repeating the work interval again and so on. The work/recovery cycle is repeated for a predetermined number of intervals (repetitions).

For example, an interval training session on a stationary bike might look like this: (more advanced trainers will reduce the recovery interval appropriately)

Warm up 2 minutes slow cycle

  • Cycle at high intensity for 30 seconds
  • Cycle at recovery speed (slow) for 60 seconds
  • Cycle at high intensity for 30 seconds
  • Cycle at recovery speed (slow) for 60 seconds
  • Cycle at high intensity for 30 seconds
  • Cycle at recovery speed (slow) for 60 seconds
  • And so on….

Never get bored with Interval training

It is impossible to get bored using interval training as it is so variable. You can vary the work intervals, recovery intervals, the number of repetitions, the resistance that you use and the activity that you are doing. Once you have a bit of experience, you can design your own interval training sessions!! Because higher intensity exercise can be daunting to untrained people, having a program designed by a professional will ensure that you get the most benefit in a safe way.

One way to make sure that you are really pushing yourself is to use the “work and I until can’t and rest until I can” protocol. No timer needed for this session, just some courage and some determination!

What are the benefits or higher intensity exercise?

  1. Time saving. A truly beneficial high intensity exercise session can be done in just minutes. For example, a stationary cycle interval session with 10 repetitions of 30 seconds work intervals/30 seconds recovery intervals will be completed in 600 seconds or 10 minutes! (plus a warm up and cool down).
  2. You may have heard of the fat burning zone? This is when you undertake mild-moderate exercise at around 60-70% MHR (maximum heart rate). At this level most of the calories burned are from fat. That’s good right? Yes it is, but the problem is reward for effort. You might do this type of exercise for 45 minutes and burn 200 calories. However, if you exercised at a higher intensity (85%MHR) for only 10 minutes, you will burn many more total calories as it includes a post-exercise calorie burning component – that means that your body continues to furiously burn calories long after the exercise session has finished through an elevated metabolic rate. Not only have you burned more total calories, you have also burned more calories from fat!
  3. We have 2 types of muscle fibres, slow twitch and fast twitch. Slow, steady state exercise (low intensity) mainly uses slow twitch fibres in the presence of oxygen – this is your aerobic energy system being used. Each muscle has a mixture of slow twitch (60%) and fast twitch (40%). The aerobic system is only using 60% of available fibres. Higher intensity exercise recruits all available fibres – an additional fibre recruitment of 40%. This results in lean body tissue development (muscle) which is necessary to look toned and to remain strong throughout life.
  4. Any exercise that recruits large, multiple muscle groups with brief bursts of high intensity effort and restricted rest periods will elevate lactic acid levels in the body. This is good – lactic acid production is associated with increases in human growth hormone levels and testosterone (relevant only for men) which result in increased lean muscle and reduced body fat and improved vitality and overall health. Our natural growth hormone levels decline with age so we can effectively reverse or slow this decline! The exercise intensity needs to be pretty high for this response so this is a benefit realised by experienced trainers

Interval Training Activities

Here are some examples of the sort of activities/exercises that can be used during an interval training session. Use variety and always start at a level of intensity that is appropriate for your level of experience, fitness and physical condition (strength and flexibility). Really, any activity that uses multiple, large muscle groups in a rhythmic manner can be used.

  • Walking (fast) – this may be the place to start if you are unfit
  • Running at various speeds depending on fitness
  • Sprints
  • High knee runs (can be done on the spot)
  • Boxing
  • Cycling
  • Steps up (including side step ups)
  • Jumping jacks
  • Squat jumps
  • Burpees
  • Mountain Climbers
  • Skipping
  • Stair climbing

Thrive Health can design you a circuit of body weight and weighted exercises that can be done as an interval training session. These are designed to complement your current program and use the same equipment.

You can download free Interval Timing applications for your phone from the App store or the Play store (Android). I use an app called IMPETUS (Iphone users can try Gymboss). These apps count you through the work and rest periods and the number of repetitions and are freely and simply programmable to suit your session on any given day.

* Do not undertake high intensity training unless you have been given clearance by your Doctor or Specialist and have been given instruction by a qualified Fitness Professional.