Imagine fitting an entire week’s workout into less time than it takes to get changed into your gym clothes and has more benefits then an hour in the gym or in a fitness class.
The latest buzzword in fitness is High Intensity Training, or HIT. HIT can yield many of the health and fitness benefits you would expect from four to five hours’ training, but in just three to ten minutes per week. Not only that, but this short and not-very-sweet regime can generally make your body younger. HIT means exercising as hard as you can for 20 to 30 seconds, resting for a couple of minutes, and then repeating this between two and ten times. This type of exercise boosts your insulin function, is great for building muscle, and increases your body’s production of human growth hormone (HGH), which is associated with lower body fat, more lean muscles, higher energy, and an enhanced immune system.
When it comes to controlling your weight, HIT also wins because, unlike lengthy workout sessions that can leave you hungry and under the mistaken impression you can afford to eat what you want, short bursts of intense activity don’t affect your appetite as dramatically.
HIT also raises metabolism for much longer after exercise than moderate intensity programs, which means more fat is burned. Intense exercise is also a powerful calorie burner.
A home-made HIT session might involve jogging gently for a couple of minutes before sprinting or running up the stairs as fast as you can for 30 seconds, jogging or walking for a minute, then sprinting or stair climbing; repeating the whole thing three to five times; and doing this three times a week.
So why does HIT work so well? It seems rapid bursts of muscle movement appear to flood the blood with hormones called catecholamines. These break down fat stores in the body and burn them up as energy. What’s more, drinking green tea after exercise appears to keep the levels of catecholamines — and therefore fat-burning rates — high even after you stop exercising.
To get the best from HIT, don’t eat for an hour before or after your workout to avoid an insulin surge, which may prevent the release of fat-burning hormones. There are some disadvantages to HIT, mainly that the exercise has to be super-intense to work. You absolutely have to run, jump, or cycle to the point where you think your heart might burst, so it’s not good if you are very overweight, unfit, have injuries, or if you simply hate it. Always check with your doctor before starting any new exercise program.
If pushing yourself to your limit gives you a buzz, HIT is perfect for you. If you find it unpleasant or stressful, you’ll just pour out stress hormones like cortisol and you’d be better off, health-wise and hormonally, opting for gentler exercise.
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