Brief high intensity workouts – the way of the future?

Man doing a high intensity workout

Many of us are guilty of looking for quick fixes in life. However they rarely work.  Nothing can substitute for hard work right? Well, what about a quick fix wrapped up in a hard work wrapper? Giddy up!

Research is suggesting that when it comes to exercise such a quick fix just might be possible – but be prepared to go hard!

The research is suggesting that a short high intensity workout could be all you need to gain cardio fitness and lose fat.  Chris Jordan, Director of exercise physiology at the Human Performance Institute in the US has created a seven minute high intensity workout training program designed to help his clients lose weight and get fit.  If you repeated the circuit two or three times you’d most likely be done.  It’s a very full on workout as you only get 10 seconds rest between each minute of exercise and you will have to go very hard to make it work for you.

What is interesting is the implications of this research for Australian government guidelines on physical activity for adults.  For a while now the guidelines have suggested that a minimum of 30 minutes of moderate intensity exercise per day on preferably all days should be the target for adults to maintain fitness and health.  Perhaps the research on the high intensity workout may give people another option – a shorter more intense workout that could fit into people’s busy schedules.

What is important to recognise, and I believe is not given enough consideration in this article on the topic below, that appeared in THE AGE recently, is that seven minutes is the duration of circuit that Chris Jordan designed, not necessarily the duration of the entire high intensity workout as is implied in the article.  Doing the circuit once may not be enough to achieve gains in cardio fitness and weight loss.  Secondly you can’t just meander through the seven minutes and think the job is done.  You have to go full-on in the seven minutes.  Finally, completing this type of workout at the expected high intensity is simply not going to be possible for a lot of people.  The exercises are great and well worth doing but it may take many people a good 15 minutes or more to get through rather than seven.  Those with a reasonable starting base level of fitness are likely to be the ones who can complete it in seven minutes.

In summary, the research on the high intensity workout suggests that it could have significant health and fitness benefits and for busy people this may be a brilliant solution to fitting in more exercise sessions per week.  However, if you want to take on this option and make it work for you, get ready to go hard.

Here is the full article as it appeared in THE AGE on September 2.

It’s the science story that many gyms may not want to hear. What if you could reap the benefits of running and weight-bearing exercise without any expensive runners or contracts and do it all in, say, seven minutes?

Exercise science is a fine and intellectually fascinating thing. But sometimes you just want someone to lay out guidelines for how to put the latest fitness research into practice.

An article in  the American College of Sports Medicine’s Health & Fitness Journal does just that. In 12 exercises deploying only body weight, a chair and a wall, it fulfils the latest mandates for high-intensity effort, which essentially combines a long run and a visit to the weight room into about seven minutes of steady discomfort – all of it based on science.

‘‘There’s very good evidence that high-intensity interval training provides many of the fitness benefits of prolonged endurance training but in much less time,’’ says Chris Jordan, the director of exercise physiology at the Human Performance Institute in Orlando, Florida, and co-author of the article.

Work by scientists at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, and other institutions shows, for instance, that even a few minutes of training at an intensity approaching your maximum capacity produces molecular changes within muscles comparable to those of several hours of running or bike riding.

Interval training, though, requires intervals; the extremely intense activity must be intermingled with brief periods of recovery.  In the program outlined by Jordan and his colleagues, this recovery is provided in part by a 10-second rest between exercises. But even more, he says, it’s accomplished by alternating an exercise that emphasises the large muscles in the upper body with those in the lower body. During the intermezzo, the unexercised muscles have a moment to, metaphorically, catch their breath, which makes the order of the exercises important.

The exercises should be performed in rapid succession, allowing 30 seconds for each, while, throughout, the intensity hovers at about an eight on a discomfort scale of one to 10, Jordan says.  Those seven minutes should be, in a word, unpleasant. The upside is that after seven minutes, you’re done.

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