It’s no secret that I I teach and practice fairly high intensity exercise but is it just me or does it seem like that is ALL that is being offered these days? Granted, New York is not the center of the world but it is where I live. Everywhere I turn there is a new cycling studio, HIIT workout, obstacle race, marathon, and/or bootcamp that promises you the pleasure of seeing stars and maybe the contents of your stomach. It makes me wonder, can all this high intensity training be good for regular, de-conditioned people who make up a majority of the population? Never one to leave anything un-analyzed, I had to investigate and found the answer which is : It Depends.
The US recommendation for exercise is 150 minutes of moderate intensity workouts like walking + a minimum of 2 days of strength training per week. You can get the full details here. The rising rates of obesity show that maybe even that recommendation is difficult for most people to achieve. So why all the rage with intense exercise if most are having trouble with the basic recommendation? Well, 2 reasons: efficacy and time constraints. People want more bang for the buck if they are taking the time our of their lives to get sweaty.
According to the American College of Sports Medicine, high intensity interval training offers more fat loss benefits, improved cardiovascular health, and more calories burned in a shorter amount of time in comparison to longer less intense workouts.
With that being said, we have all heard about the handful of athletes who have suddenly dropped dead or had a stroke while exercising or competing. So what’s up with that? Well, it turns out that while short intermittent burst of intensity does a body good, long sustained and HIIT workouts done frequently negate the benefits exercise lends to your heart. In short? enjoy your vigorous workout but understand that every workout does NOT have to be intense to be beneficial. In fact, it’s best to keep things varied.