Updated: 19 Apr 18
Many people’s idea of a good workout is to exercise for as long and hard as possible.
Unless we finish the session dripping in sweat, we’ve not really done our-self justice.
Does this sound familiar?
For over 20 years that is exactly how I perceived a ‘proper’ workout to be.
If I could keep running for an hour+, or spend that long in the gym on the treadmill, cross-trainer, rowing machine etc. then that would have been a ‘proper’ workout.
Despite my good intentions, I never seemed to develop the physique I was looking for and could never shift that stubborn layer of fat around my belly.
Consistency was also a problem, as there were days when I couldn’t face a long cardio session, or just didn’t have the time.
If you have a similar exercise lifestyle, then this article could be the start of a new way of exercising for you!
High Intensity Interval Training (HITT)
Up until recent years, cardio exercise was seen as the best exercise for overall health. It was what we were supposed to do in order to lose weight, and for maintaining a healthy cardiovascular system.
But just like my story, this type of exercise produces slow, or no results at all.
Ever wondered why your abs always stayed hidden, or your butt just didn’t tone-up as it should?!
Not only that, prolonged cardiovascular workouts could actually be detrimental to your health.
It’s time to wake up folks and pull your head out of the sand.
If you keep doing what you’ve been doing for the last (however many) years, you’ll keep seeing the same, mediocre results.
Enter the new era for optimal health and improved physical conditioning – high intensity interval training (HITT).
HITT is a workout that only lasts for around 15-20 minutes.
During the workout you alternate between high intensity bursts of activity followed by a much less intense exercise, or complete rest.
For example, you might sprint at 90% of your maximum for 45 seconds and then jog slowly for a minute or two.
You would repeat this 6 or 7 times.
It applies equally when lifting weights using a number of different muscle groups.
Lift heavy weights for a low number of reps, rather than lighter weights and high reps.
Studies have shown that short duration, high intensive bursts of energy is much more effective for losing weight than exercising for hours, because it burns more calories over a longer time.
You will also benefit from greater muscle mass, as opposed to losing muscle performing steady state cardio.
The Dangers of Lengthy Cardio Sessions
Exercising and keeping fit is vitally important for a number of reasons, and aerobic activity benefits the cardiovascular system, helping to prevent heart disease, diabetes and related illnesses.
The problems occur when aerobic exercise extends beyond an optimal time.
Obviously this time varies from one person to the next depending on their age, current level of fitness, medical history etc.
After a certain length of time of cardio exercise you can push your body into a state of ‘self preservation’ that may cause various health problems such as:
- Increasing the stress hormone cortisol; which can potentially cause chronic disease and illness.
- A weakened immune system.
- A greater increase (by up to a factor of 20 times the normal), in oxidative damage (caused by the production of free radicals) – which again can lead to serious illness and disease.
- Induces a catabolic state where your body breaks down tissue and uses muscle for fuel in order to preserve fat reserves.
- Mental fatigue – Long cardio sessions can be very boring!
Not only can enduring cardio workouts lead to little or no benefit to your physical appearance, they may also lead to more significant health problems.
The Benefits of Short, Intensive Workouts
High intensity, short workouts have the following advantages:
- They don’t take long, so you’re more likely to stick with your training routine. Plus you can easily fit them in during a lunch break. A good workout only needs to take around 30 minutes.
- You can do it anywhere, without any equipment and with virtually any type of exercise.
- Increased muscle mass/definition and strength.
- Increases your metabolism and produces more of your natural, human growth hormone (HGH). HGH also helps prevent premature aging, keeping you younger looking on the outside and feeling great on the inside!
- Increases your aerobic capacity and cardiovascular system.
- Burns fat rather than muscle, and much more efficiently. Both weight training and HIT workouts will build muscle and torch fat for up to 24hrs after exercising.
Working-Out the Way We Were Designed To
This method of exercise is exactly how we used to behave tens of thousands of years ago.
To catch our prey, we would wait.. and then sprint. Or simply sprint to run away.
We certainly wouldn’t have jogged for miles and miles.
Pulling heavy carcasses over short distances and lifting huge stones to build shelter etc. were all part of a day’s work, and similar to high intensive exercise that is advocated now.
I’m not suggesting you have to abandon your cardio workouts.
If you enjoy it, and it keeps you fit and well, then keep doing it.
You’re still in the small percentage of people who actually take the time and effort to work-out, so you need to be congratulated for that.
If however you’re interested in developing your physique and increasing that all important ‘muscle mass’, then you should seriously consider introducing high intensity workouts into your weekly training program.
Combine this type of workout wit eating more natural foods (i.e. less carbs, more vegetables, nuts and healthy fats, and good amounts of protein) and you’ll be amazed at your body’s transformation!