For decades fitness gurus have been touting the health benefits of aerobic exercise such as jogging and power walking.
The phrase “cardio exercise” itself has become synonymous with heart healthy exercise. Numerous books, “as seen on TV” exercise tapes, and even misguided doctors continue to claim many benefits for traditional cardio and aerobic exercise including:
1) Losing Weight
2) Increased Oxygen In Your Body
3) A Stronger Heart
5) Stronger Bones
6) You’ll Live Longer
7) Stronger Muscles
8) Increased Energy
And many more!
However… there’s just one little problem.
If you’re sticking with just cardio / aerobic exercise, you’re not going to get all of those benefits. In fact, if that’s ALL you do, you can count on a weaker heart, diminished lung capacity, and shrinking muscle mass. How’s that possible?
Let me explain.
When you perform traditional cardio and aerobic exercise, the goal is to stay within “your aerobic limits” — and your heart and lungs adapt and become more efficient.
At first glance you might think, well, that’s good. But more efficient means your heart and lung capacity actually shrinks as they become accustomed to extended periods of stress — the hour or longer you’re spending in each step class or out running beating up your body.
A short, yet powerful workout
Fortunately, there’s a simple way to re-condition your heart and lungs to increase their capacity. It’s a little-known type of exercising called “High Intensity Interval Training” (HIIT) which for some reason, many fitness gurus fail to talk about.
HIIT involves pushing your body harder and faster than you’re used to doing with aerobic exercise, but for much shorter time periods.
For example, let’s say you’re a jogger.
Part of your workout may include a 2 mile run at an 8 minute mile pace, which would mean that part of your workout would be a consistent slow-pace for 16 minutes.
In contrast, high intensity interval training involves much more intense exercise such as sprints or full-body conditioning… for a much
A great example of this would be doing jumping jacks as fast as you could for 1 minute straight followed by a 30 second break.
That’s one set.
Ten sets of this exercise and you’d get a great heart- and lung-building workout in just 15 minutes!
After publishing a study on HIIT earlier this year in the Journal of Physiology, one of its authors noted “We have shown that interval training does not have to be ‘all out’ in order to be effective.” In fact, “doing 10 one-minute sprints on a standard stationary bike with about one minute of rest in between, three times a week, works as well in improving muscle as many hours of conventional long-term biking less strenuously.”
That’s a profound finding — and one you should be exciting about!
Let’s put this in everyday terms. What this study shows is you no longer need to jog for 45-60 minutes to get in a high quality workout. After all, we’re all pressed for time these days and it’s hard enough finding the motivation to workout for just a few minutes each day, let alone an hour or longer.
With high intensity interval training (HIIT), all you need is a 15-20 minute workout, 3 times per week. That can easily save you 2-3 hours per week, depending on how long you’re currently working out.
And here’s the part you’re going to love most.
After a HIIT workout, an amazing phenomenon called excess post-oxygen consumption, or EPOC, takes over. Your body, which has just been taxed more than its used to, fires up a fat burning process over the next 24-48 hours and continues to burn more calories while it recovers from the workout… and works to increase your heart and lung capacity.
And here’s a bonus. The calories expended during and after a HIIT workout burns 3 times as much fat as standard aerobic and cardio exercise.
Anyone can do it
Since HIIT starts at your current fitness level, anyone can do it. If walking up a flight of stairs leaves you winded, you can begin training with the simple walking. If you’re in great shape already, you might start with sprints, jumping rope, or another exercise.
My favorite program for HIIT training is Dr. Sears’ PACE Program. If you want to increase your heart and lung capacity, lose fat, or finally get in shape without spending hours and hours working out every week you won’t go wrong with HIIT.
Little JP, et al. A practical model of low-volume high-intensity interval training induces mitochondrial biogenesis in human skeletal muscle: potential mechanisms. The Journal of Physiology. 2010 Mar 15;588(Pt 6):1011-22.
Trembblay A, Simoneau JA, Bouchard C. Impact of Exercise Intensity on Body Fatness and Skeletal Muscle Metablism. Metabolism. 1994. 43(7):814-818.
Written By: Updated: October 5,2010