Exercise, exercise, exercise! Everyone tells you to do it- your mom, your friends, and even your doctor, but does anyone tell you how to do it? Well, science is showing that the best way to exercise is not the way many of us have been taught – moderate and steady exercise programs do not provide the same benefits as high intensity programs. Of course, before you got out there and push yourself, you might want to check in with your doctor and ensure that you have the greenlight to do so.
All exercise programs have great benefits, but if you are looking for an efficient, effective, and powerful way to optimize your health, a quick high intensity interval workout is a great way to do so.
What does high intensity mean? It means that your heart rate is getting to 75-85% of your maximum heart rate (220-your age in years). You will break a sweat after 2-3 minutes, your breathing will be short and rapid, and you will only be able to speak in short phrases.
Intervals mean that you exercise in bursts of 30-90 seconds at 70-85% of your maximum heart rate, take a 10-30 second break to recover, and do it again. You should only be able to do this 8-10 times before you are totally spent (ie- 7-12 minutes). You can perform this kind of workout with any form of cardio or resistance training.
The New York Times recently published a great example of a complete 7 minute workout. You can also download an app from iTunes that has a timer created specifically for high intensity interval training.
Why is this kind of workout so good for you?
By regularly performing a quick high intensity interval workout out, you increase:
Growth hormone: Growth hormone is important because it increases your body’s ability to burn fat, as well as it’s ability to modulate blood glucose levels. It plays a role in increasing bone density, boosting immune function, and improving your heart’s ability to work efficiently.
Brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF): BDNF is the magical protein that increases your brain plasticity. It basically allows your neurons to communicate with one another so that we can continue to make new neural pathways as we age.
Insulin receptor sensitivity: With an improved insulin receptor response, you can improve your blood sugar levels, increase your energy levels, and lower your cholesterol and blood pressure.
Opioid response: That’s right- high intensity exercise will make you feel euphoric. You will feel less pain and have a gain a great buzz.
Now get out there and do it! Surely you can squeeze a 7-12 minute workout into your day. Get up from your chair and do some high intensity squats, push-ups, or jumping jacks and start reaping the rewards!
Don’t forget to recover after your workout- pack in high antioxidant foods immediately after your workout to offset any oxidative stress that you might have caused and make sure that you are well hydrated. If you sweat profusely, make sure you replenish your electrolytes with something delicious and potent like coconut water.