Fitness & Health

short bursts of intensive exercise as effective as 5 or 6 hours a week

exercise-bikeRecent research from Edinburgh’s Heriot-Watt University found short bursts of intensive exercise can be as effective as the government recommended 5 or 6 hours a week.

Professor Jamie Timmons, who led the research, said: “Our study shows that by doing the right type of training – intensive for very short periods – it is plausible for young and most probably middle-aged adults to reduce their future risk of developing diabetes without spending five to six hours each week involved in exercise programmes.”

High-intensity interval training (HIT) can be done on an exercise bike (as in the study), running upstairs or even running on the spot. Basically anything will do as long as the body is pushed to the maximum.

Timmons advises four 30-second bursts of exercise with the whole thing taking about 4 minutes. He says doing this even twice a week will bring clear benefits. The article goes on to explain the study which involved 16 average and relatively sedentary 20-year-old men before and after a 2-week training period, in more detail.

After two weeks of HIT training the men had a 23 per cent improvement in how effectively they used insulin to remove glucose from the bloodstream. Timmons says similar ongoing studies in Canada are showing that the risk of heart attack could also be cut with this type of training.

Timmons believes his findings could help the NHS make big savings: “This novel approach may help people to lead a healthier life, improve the future health of the population and save the health service millions of pounds simply by making it easier for people to find time for exercise”.

Frank Forencich, the international natural fitness expert and founder of Exuberant is, however, not wholly convinced: “It may motivate some people to better health practices, which is great.’’ He went on “However, we have to think of it in context. In our natural state, as hunter-gatherer tribes the vast majority of physical movement was walking, which involved scouting and gathering.

This would have been broken up by occasional periods of rest or intense physical movement – hunting or being hunted. Adding short or intense bouts of movement to a sedentary lifestyle might be beneficial to some but it is certainly not natural. My feeling is that the best approach is to emphasise sustained walking first, then add bursts of high energy activity as desired. That way, people will enjoy two levels of benefit.”

Timmons would like to see HIT training offered in the workplace: “The exercise makes your muscles tired, but you don’t really sweat, so workplaces could introduce exercise bikes for their workers, or even steppers.”

Source: Independent Life

If you are interested in learning more about this subject you might like to read:

Science and Application of High-Intensity Interval Training

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