Category Archives: Physical Fitness

What’s HIIT All About?

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Want to reverse the impact of aging? Improve your glucose metabolism? Increase your heart health and aerobic capacity? Would you like to burn more calories in less time, and enjoy yourself in the process? Then HIIT may be for you!

HIIT (high intensity interval training) simply requires alternating short bouts of intensive activity (such as thirty seconds or so) with longer intervals (three or four minutes) of less intensive activity. This can be any activity you choose, so no special training or equipment is required.

For example, if you’re fit enough to jog, you could intersperse short jogs within a longer brisk walk. If you’re more sedentary, you might take a leisurely stroll and briefly walk faster from time to time during it.

HIIT dates back to Olympic athletes at least as early as 1912; however, it has only become popular for the average exerciser more recently. And scientific studies have followed, providing evidence of HIIT’s many benefits. For instance, Mayo Clinic researchers found HIIT appears to alter cellular DNA in such a way that one’s muscles become able to produce more energy. It prompts new muscle growth too.

Mayo Clinic researchers have also compared HIIIT, resistance training and combined training in a twelve-week study. All three improved cardio respiratory health, lean body mass and insulin sensitivity, however “only high-intensity and combined training improved aerobic capacity and mitochondrial function for skeletal muscle. Decline in mitochondrial content and function are common in older adults…Exercise training significantly enhanced the cellular machinery responsible for making new proteins. That contributes to protein synthesis, thus reversing a major adverse effect of aging.”(1)

In fact, the improvement in mitochondrial functioning, which usually decreases with age, was even more marked in the over-65 participant group–69 percent improvement, as compared to 49 percent in the 18-to-30-year-old group.

It’s important to check in with your doctor before starting a new workout routine, especially if you have a chronic health condition or haven’t been exercising regularly. To help prevent injury, start slowly rather than rush into a workout that might be too strenuous. Mayo Clinic specialists suggest starting with just one to two higher intensity intervals during each workout. Slow it down if you feel you’re overdoing it; then challenge yourself to vary the pace as your stamina increases.

Mayo Clinic Sports Medicine Center Co-Director Dr. Edward Laskowski cautions HIIT programs need to be carefully designed as higher impact activities aren’t a good fit for everyone, “Especially those with a musculoskeletal injury, a poor musculoskeletal foundation or improper movement patterns. But low-impact HIIT options include bicycling, elliptical trainer or water running activities to provide an aerobic exercise challenge without significant joint or impact load. And the intensity, frequency and progression of each program can be tailored to a patient’s diagnosis and abilities.”(2)

Also, Dr. Laskowski explains, “There’s solid evidence that older, less active, overweight, and obese individuals can benefit from HIIT training. HIIT has also been shown to be very safe and effective in patients with heart disease and type 2 diabetes.”(3)

This doesn’t mean you should do HIIT daily though. Many experts recommend keeping it to once or twice a week, alternating light to moderate exercise on other days so your bones and muscles get the time they need to rebuild. But keep in mind that to noticeably improve your muscle strength, you’ll need to include resistance training in your routine twice per week.

But perhaps best of all, HIIT seems to help many people exercise regularly on an ongoing basis. Why? Many find it makes their exercise more fun! Researchers have noted study participants’ preference for HIIT and their self-reporting that they’re more likely to stick with routines that include it. So if you’re not doing HIIT, consider choosing a favorite type of exercise and adapting it to your HIIT needs!

(1)https://newsnetwork.mayoclinic.org/discussion/mayo-clinic-discovers-high-intensity-aerobic-training-can-reverse-aging-processes-in-adults/
(2)https://www.mayoclinic.org/medical-professionals/physical-medicine-rehabilitation/news/sprint-rest-repeat-exploring-the-benefits-of-high-intensity-interval-training/mac-20431116
(3) Ibid.

Sources:
https://www.mayoclinic.org/why-interval-training-may-be-the-best-workout-at-any-age/art-20342125
https://newsnetwork.mayoclinic.org/discussion/mayo-clinic-discovers-high-intensity-aerobic-training-can-reverse-aging-processes-in-adults/
https://www.womenshealth.com.au/hiit-training-anti-aging-benefits Aug. 1 2018 https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/fitness/in-depth/interval-training/art-20044588
https://www.mayoclinic.org/why-interval-training-may-be-the-best-workout-at-any-age/art-20342125
https://www.mayoclinic.org/medical-professionals/physical-medicine-rehabilitation/news/sprint-rest-repeat-exploring-the-benefits-of-high-intensity-interval-training/mac-20431116
https://newsnetwork.mayoclinic.org/discussion/mayo-clinic-discovers-high-intensity-aerobic-training-can-reverse-aging-processes-in-adults/

Reprinted with permission from the Spring 2019 issue of Health & Happiness U.P. Magazine, copyright 2019. All rights reserved.

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Why Crunches Alone Don’t Make Your Middle Smaller

by Heidi Stevenson
It’s a common reaction. You decide a certain body part—your stomach, the back of your arms, the inside of your upper legs—is too big, and you seek out exercises to make it smaller. You do endless crunches, tricep kickbacks, and inner thigh lifts, only to find that said body part is stubbornly retaining its size. Why is this so? Why can’t that fabulous ab machine on TV eliminate abdominal fat as it promises to do?

 

When you attempt to change an isolated area of your body like your abdominal region, your triceps, (the muscle running along the back of your arms), or your adductors, (the muscle running along the inside of your upper legs), by targeting it with strength training exercises like crunches, tricep kickbacks, or inner thigh lifts alone, it’s called spot training, or spot reduction. And alone, it doesn’t work. If you are unhappy with the size of your stomach, you cannot attempt to change the shape alone and hope the problem will go away. You may already have strong muscles in that area. You might already really like the shape of those muscles.

 

Often though, those muscles are underneath accumulated body fat. In order to change this, you need to burn body fat. You need to focus on making your body smaller and leaner overall. If you are interested in “whittling your middle,” getting rid of the little thing swinging on the back of your arms, attacking that inner thigh jiggle, and if it is safe for you to lose weight, you need to combine the exercises targeting those areas with two things: sensible eating, and ample cardiovascular activity, which increases your heart rate—like running, biking, or swimming. In a very basic sense, taking in more calories than you burn results in accumulated body fat. Burning more calories than you take in results in loss of body fat.

 

Determining how many calories you should eat, and of what sort, as well as how much and what kind of activity is appropriate for you, is a complex task. You should consult professionals for help in these areas: physicians, nutritionists, personal trainers, etc. Once you have determined that your eating plan is sensible and your activity is ample for weight loss, then yes, go ahead and include those exercises to strengthen your muscles.

 

But make sure you are also strength training in a balanced, healthy way. Work opposing muscle groups: work your back muscles along with your abdominal muscles, your biceps along with your triceps, and your abductors along with your adductors. Work your upper body, if you’re working your lower body. Consider trying a discipline like Pilates, which includes a lot of integrative strength training (exercises in which you work a lot of muscles at once). Gaining balanced muscular strength and endurance will not only help change the shape of those underlying muscles. You’ll also be bringing that stronger body into your cardiovascular activity, making it easier to do more.

 

So now you are eating sensibly, including an appropriate amount of cardiovascular activity in your life, and including balanced strength training. Once you have done these things, the rest is up to your body’s natural shape and tendencies. We all have to accept that with which we are born. But you will see your body change. You will feel healthier and stronger. And really, that’s the most beautiful and perfect any of us need to be.

 

Heidi Stevenson is a certified group fitness instructor, currently teaching yoga, Pilates, and aquatics for the HPER Department and Recreational Sports program at Northern Michigan University. She has taught a wide variety of group fitness classes in Michigan and Pennsylvania over the last 14 years.
 
Reprinted from Health & Happiness U.P. Magazine, Spring 2010. Copyright Heidi Stevenson, 2010.
 

 

 

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