Mini-workouts are the latest rage because, in just a few minutes, they can help you can boost your heart health, reduce body fat, and reduce your risk of many dreaded diseases, including diabetes.
Brief bursts of exercise followed by short rest periods are often called “high intensity interval training” (HIIT) and you can reap huge benefits from it, according to the latest research.
“Interval training can be difficult, but you get great results,” says Martin Gibala, chair of the department of kinesiology at McMaster University in Ontario, Canada.
Gibala and his team of researchers have conducted extensive studies into the field of exercise and nutrition at the cellular level.
“You can test HIIT by pushing your regular routine a little harder. Get out of your comfort zone and then back off,” he advises.
One example: Pedal on a stationary bicycle really fast for a couple of minutes and then slow down for 30 seconds. Repeat the pattern several times for a short, but effective workout.
Sports medicine expert Dr. Gabe Mirkin, author of “The Healthy Heart Miracle,” tells Newsmax Health high intensity training works by boosting the body’s production of energy at the cellular level.
“Today, everything is about having healthy mitochondria, the structures in our cells responsible for respiration and energy,” he explains. “Intense exercise increases the number and size of our mitochondria far more effectively than casual exercise.”
Mirkin adds that recent studies have shown that intense exercise is also far more beneficial in preventing heart attacks and improving aerobic endurance even in coronary artery disease patients than prolonged, moderate activity.
Dr. Robert Silverman, of White Plains New York, who is a chiropractor and certified sports nutritionist with The International Society of Sports Nutrition, tells Newsmax Health that HIIT training benefits the body in the following five ways.
A healthier heart. “HIIT training has the potential to elevate your heart rate to the max and keep your heart rate up throughout the entire workout,” he says. “The key is that the intensity intervals should involve maximum effort. Over time, the heart muscle, overall cardiovascular system and even lung function adapt to the increased intensity.”
This helps the body use oxygen and insulin in a much more effective manner.
“Repeatedly pushing the body close to its exercise limits for very brief periods of time, interspersed with periods of rest, is more effective than continuous moderate exercise at improving not only the cardiovascular system, but also respiratory, metabolic, and mechanical function,” he explains.
In a McMaster University study, patients who did several 30-second all-out sprints interspersed with short rest periods improved the function and structure of their blood vessels as much as those who exercised moderately for 40 minutes to 60 minutes at a time.
Lower blood pressure. A study published in the American Journal of Cardiovascular Disease showed that HIIT training improved endothelial function and the ability of arteries to be more elastic and dilate, which may keep hypertension at bay. HIIT training also blocks the release of hormones like norepinephrine that causes the nervous system to go into overdrive, therefore making interval training beneficial even for those who have high blood pressure.
In a study from Abertay University in Scotland, just two sessions a week of high intensity exercise was enough to lower blood pressure by an average of 9 percent.
Diabetes management. “Research has shown that HIIT can promote improvements in glucose levels in individuals with Type 2 diabetes,” Silverman says. “For all my patients with diabetes, HIIT is my main choice for exercising because of the robust improvements in blood sugar markers.”
Norwegian researchers took people with metabolic syndrome — a disorder that raises the risk for diabetes and heart disease — and assigned them to high intensity workouts. After 16 weeks, 46 percent of those who trained with intensity no longer met the criteria for metabolic syndrome.
Lower body fat. “HIIT exercises will make your body into a fat-burning machine by taking both the anaerobic and aerobic energy-releasing systems almost to their maximum output,” says Silverman.
Research shows that HIIT can also increase muscle mass as well as reduce body fat — including the more dangerous visceral belly fat that surrounds our organs. Research from the University of New South Wales in Australia revealed that weight, abdominal and trunk fat, and total fat mass all dropped in men who engaged in HIIT training for 12 weeks. They also experienced a 17 percent drop in visceral fat.
More “get up and go.” Because HIIT training tremendously increases the activity of mitochondria — the intracellular energy factories of the body — participants enjoy continuous high-energy levels, says Silverman.
In the Abertay study, seniors reported that they improved their aerobic capacity and were able to engage in more demanding physical activities, such as taking their dogs for a longer walk or walking uphill.
“The improvement in their perception of what they were now capable of doing and how well they felt was as important as our actual measurements,” says lead investigator John Babraj.
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