Sunday, May 4, 2008


Health professionals have always recommended walking as a preventative against heart disease.    With the human heart beating more than 2.5 billion times in an average lifetime – you’d want to keep it in shape.
With your blood traveling over 19,000 kms per day that’s almost four times the distance across Canada from coast to coast – you would want it to be and stay in good shape!
Hey, your time is valuable.  So how do you make the most of the time you have?
Is one type of aerobic workout better than another? 
What sort of cardiovascular workout is best for your heart?
What about for fat loss?
Are you ready to be shocked?  I am sure I am going to surprise a lot of people. 

The best cardiovascular workout is High Intensity Interval Training or HIIT..

According to a Harvard Health Professionals Study,  after studying over 7,000 people they found that the key to preventing heart disease is intensity – NOT long-duration exercise. 

What is High Intensity Interval Training or HIIT?
This is a much shorter aerobic workout that involves periods of exertion and recovery.  Basically you vary the degree of your aerobic workout by doing a short burst of high intensity exertion (sprint) and then follow up with a recovery period.  Then another short burst followed by another recovery, etc…
The latest research suggests that only vigorous activity is effective in reducing heart deaths.  Another recent Harvard study revealed that those who used sprint-aerobic principles in their workouts reduce their risk of heart disease by 100 percent more than those who practice aerobic exercise. Of course if you are out of shape I don’t suggest that you go out and give it all you’ve got.  That’s where goal setting comes in.

What about burning fat?
For many years the conventional wisdom was that more was better.  Long, slow cardio was the way to go.  The problem with this is your body adjusts to this steady state and it tries to conserve energy (calories).  Sure it initially burns more fat, but in time it teaches the body that it needs fat available to use as fuel for it’s next cardio session.
Sprint intervals burn fat best.  These short bursts use energy from carbohydrates, which burn energy at a higher rate than fat.  You then burn much more fat for energy during the recovery period as you replenish the carbs.
A study at Laval University in Quebec, found that High Intensity Interval Training or HITT cardio helped loose nine times more fat than those who ran moderately on a treadmill for 20 – 60 minutes.
Ever look at a long distance runner?  A long distance cyclist?  Next time you’re at the gym take a peek at the people that spend all their time on the treadmill….
I know running is addictive, but, I always end up thinking of the hamster that spends endless time on the hamster wheel.  Compare a marathon runner to a sprinter.  It doesn’t matter male or female.  The sprinter looks lean yet muscular – the ideal body.
Long slow cardio forces the body to get rid of muscle, where as intensity offsets muscle reduction.
Carl Lewis who won 9 gold Olympic medals, contributes some of his success to interval training.   Even Lance Armstrong who won the Tour de France seven times contributed his success to interval training.

Our bodies were NOT designed for steady cardio but rather stop-and-go movements.  No other animal on earth does endurance type physical activities.  In addition, most competitive sports focus on short bursts of exertion followed by recovery.
Another big advantage of High Intensity Interval Training over Endurance Cardio Training is the reduction of Strains and Overuse Injuries.
How many people do you know that have sore knees from running? If you are overweight you are basically crushing your joints with the excess weight and repetitive pounding.
Tight IT Bands, more correctly called Iliotibial Band Syndrome, can cause pain from the hip to below the knee.  Lateral Knee and Hip pain is most common, as the IT Band pulls the knee cap out of place bruising your femur. 

Most aerobic exercise programs result in a 50 to 90 percent injury rate in the initial six weeks of training!  Yet the typical weight-loss program for an overweight person seems to focus on continuous repetitions for a prolonged period of time.  As I’ve already stated more is not necessarily better.

What about middle-age and older adults?
By focusing on High Intensity Interval Training there is a tremendous increase in growth hormone which is not only important for muscle building, but for fat loss and reversing the aging process!
If you want to preserve muscle, improve cholesterol levels, maintain healthy testosterone levels, prevent hair loss and tone the body, start adding HIIT to your fitness routine.

Along with (HIIT) High Intensity Interval Training focus on resistance training and body weight workouts.  Join a fitness Boot Camp to help get you started or challenge you to get to that next level.
What ever exercise regimen you choose, don’t stop moving – and most important have fun!