No time to exercise? Have you heard about the benefits of shorter, more intense workouts? High-Intensity Training (HIT) is all the rage these days among people with little time to hit the gym. Getting in a great workout in the time it takes to walk across the mall parking lot or wait in line for your morning coffee might sound too good to be true. How effective can a 15-minute workout (no matter how intense) really be?
What is High-Intensity Exercise?
High-intensity exercise requires developing a workout routine that alternates between intense bursts of activity (like sprinting) with lower level activity, like walking. For instance, a HIT routine may consist of two minutes of full out sprinting, followed by one minute of walking, then three minutes of sprinting, etc.
Does High-Intensity Exercise Really Work?
With more and more people touting the benefits of HIT exercise, the American College of Sports Medicine conducted an in-depth study in 2011 to see if the results lived up to the hype. The results were clear: high-intensity exercise improved cardiovascular health, burned more fat and calories, and built more muscle.
Compared to general aerobic exercise, HIT helped participants match the aerobic capacity of jogging and running in one-third of the time. As reported by the American College of Sports Medicine, just two weeks of high-intensity workouts can help improve a person’s aerobic capacity to match the levels of those who participate in endurance training for six to eight weeks.
How High-Intensity Exercise Affects the Body
Every type of exercise is good for the body. Studies show that a mere 20 minutes of moving is going to improve your overall well-being. But, if you want to experience more astounding results from exercise, a high-intensity workout can give you some real benefits. Here's what you can expect to see when you start HIT:
High-intensity workouts make you breathe faster and heavier. This pumps more blood to your muscles, including your lung muscles. With five times more oxygen being taken in during high-intensity exercise, the muscles surrounding the lungs get stronger.
A heart that is forced to pump harder during a tough workout is going to get stronger and stronger, making your entire body healthier.
During HIT, blood and oxygen flow is increased in the brain. This promotes new brain cell growth which can increase memory and even make you smarter.
A Stronger Body Core
The body consists of 29 core muscles, primarily in the back, abdomen and pelvis. High-intensity exercise has been shown to increase strength and flexibility in these core muscles, and that can lead to a stronger back. The healthier the back and spine, the better able you are to stay balanced and stable. This helps you remain active as you age, which leads to a healthier and longer life.
Are There Any Risks?
Any type of physical activity comes with some risk, and high-intensity exercise is no exception. Some of the things to be aware of are:
- A higher incidence of injury. The harder you work out, the more careful you need to be to avoid injury. Be sure that you are doing every exercise correctly.
- An inability to keep up. Just because a high-intensity workout is short, doesn’t mean it's easy. It is extremely important to allow your body to adjust to this type of strenuous exercise routine. Start slow and build up the intensity of the workout over a few days or weeks. This is especially vital for people who have not worked out much in the past.
Keeping Your Body Strong
The human body needs to exercise in order to work properly. By integrating a solid exercise routine into your daily life, you can help your body remain strong and healthy for years to come.
Not sure if you can handle such an intense workout? Recovering from an injury? Be sure to make an appointment with Capital City Neurosurgery for a complete evaluation by our esteemed neurosurgeon Dr. Kelly Kiehm and for tips on how best to safely integrate a high-intensity exercise into your workout routine.