20 Health and Fitness Facts Based on Research that Could Help You

We are inundated each day with hundreds of adds while online, on our phones, watching TV, or from just about anything else we may read. With that said, there is a great deal of conflicting information and more than one view on just about any health/fitness/exercise topic. I’m always interested in where the content and data are coming from and are they backed by science. Even when it is, there can be times that the information or data collected has been taken from a small sample size or the researcher had a vested interest in the research being done.

Here are a few health and fitness facts for you that come from prominent academic sources involving research that you can hopefully use to improve your own health and fitness.

  • The University of Pennsylvania Sleep and Chronobiology Laboratory looked at the sleeping and eating behavior of 225 people. They reported, in the journal Sleep, when you’re awake between the hours of 10 p.m. and 4 a.m., you’re more likely to consume extra calories. The group ate an average of 553 more calories, typically choosing foods higher in fat, when they were kept awake until the early morning hours.
  • Research published in the journal Frontiers in Immunology, show mind-body interventions (MBIs) such as meditation, yoga and Tai Chi do more than just relax us; they can ‘reverse’ the molecular reactions in our DNA which cause ill-health and depression.
  • Research from the journal Obesity, shows exposure to higher levels of cortisol, an indicator of stress, over several months is associated with people being more heavily, and more persistently, overweight. The research involved 2,527 men and women aged 54 and older who participated in the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing, that looked at data over a four-year period.
  • Dr. Robert Lustig, author of Fat Chance, and his colleagues have shown through their research that every additional 150 calories of added sugar consumed above daily requirements was associated with a 1.1 percent increase risk of type 2 diabetes. A second study showed subjects who got 17-21% of their calories from added sugar had a 38% risk of dying from cardiovascular disease compared to those who consumed 8% of their calories from added sugar. The risk was more than double for those who consumed 21% or more of their calories from added sugar (D’Adamo, 2015).
  • “Fat (in our diet) is not the problem,” says Dr. Walter Willett, chairman of the department of nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health. “If Americans could eliminate sugary beverages, potatoes, white bread, pasta, white rice and sugary snacks, we would wipe out almost all the problems we have with weight and diabetes and other metabolic diseases.” Research from Harvard University published in the New England Journal of Medicine followed subjects over a twenty year period and determined that the food most often associated with weight gain was you guessed it, white potatoes (NEJM, 2011).
  • The fact is that a brain hijacked by a diet high in sugar and flour blocks weight loss. It does this in three ways: (1) sugar and flour raise baseline insulin levels far past what our bodies were designed to handle. The elevated insulin not only sets us up for diabetes, but it turns out its blocking the brain from recognizing a critical hormone: leptin. (2) after eating the average American amount of sugar for just three weeks, 22 teaspoons, the brain’s pleasure receptors do something called “down-regulating.” Essentially, to cope with the excessive stimulation, the brain takes some of its receptors offline. (3) willpower isn’t a dimension of your personality, something some people are born with and others simply lack. Willpower is a cognitive function and we all have about the same amount, fifteen minutes, give or take. Meaning any successful diet MUST expect that your willpower will fail AT LEAST once a day and work anyway (source: Susan Pierce Thompson, PhD).
  • The average American consumes too much added sugar on a daily basis. Americans currently eat about 76 pounds of different forms of sugars every year. Even though we have seen a 15% decrease in added sugar consumption since 1999, according to government data, the typical person still eats about 94 grams (or 375 calories) on a daily basis (U.S. Department of Agriculture).
  • A meta-analysis published in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise reviewed 49 studies of men ages 50 to 83 who did progressive resistance training and found that subjects averaged a 2.4-pound increase in lean body mass.
  • Approximately three decades of age-related strength loss and two decades of age-related muscle mass loss can be recovered or reversed within the first couple of months of starting a strength training program. (Ivey, 2000).
  • A study in the journal Nutrients suggests a daily intake of 1 to 1.3 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight for older adults who do regular strength training. This is much higher than 0.8 grams/kg/body weight than you may have previously read or been told. This would mean, for example, that a 175-pound man would need about 79 grams to 103 grams a day. If possible, divide your protein equally among your daily meals to maximize muscle protein synthesis.
  • It was reported in Stuart Phillips 2016 paper, Protein “requirements” beyond the RDA: implications for optimizing health, that “evidence suggests that intakes of high quality protein in the range of 1.2-1.6 grams/kilo/body weight is a more ideal target to achieve optimal health outcomes in adults.”
  • The average American spends more than 9 hours a day sitting. Research shows that people who sit the most have a 112 percent increase in the Relative Risk (RR) of Diabetes and a 147 percent increase in the RR of cardiovascular events compared to people who sit the least. Sitting down for a large part of the day has similar mortality rates to smoking (Wilmot et al., 2012).
  • According to research, individuals who did not strength train lost about 5 to 7 pounds of muscle every ten years and a by-product of this was that there was a reduction in their metabolism by about 50 calories a day. As you grow older, the loss of muscle becomes more pronounced and by the time you reach the age of 70, the muscular system has experienced a 40 percent loss of muscle mass and a 30 percent decrease in strength.
  • Strength appears to peak between the ages of 25 and 35 and is maintained or slightly lower between ages 40 and 59 and then declines by 12-14 percent per decade after 50 years of age, according to research published by Doherty in 2001.
  • Research has demonstrated that individuals who use a pedometer take an additional 2,000 steps each day compared to nonusers and their overall physical activity level increases by 27 percent. Looks like its time to break out the pedometer and start to step it up!
  • In a 2014 study in the Journal of Economic Behavior and Organization, Australian researchers looked at the relationship between various personality traits and exercise and other health-related habits. The researchers found that people who thought they had control over their lives were more likely to exercise and adopt other healthy steps than those who felt that luck or fate largely dictated their lives.
  • According to Len Kravitz, PhD, a researcher at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque, “High intensity interval training (HIIT) adds up to 15 percent more calories to the total calories expended.” That means if you’ve worked off 550 calories doing HIIT, you can reasonably expect to burn at least another 83 calories post-exercise.
Credit: https://sunstonefit.com
  • Research has shown that drinking 17-ounces of water upon waking up in the morning will increase your metabolic rate by about 30 percent over the next few hours. The same researchers believe that over the course of a year, individuals who increase water consumption by just 1.5 liters a day could burn an extra 17,400 calories and experience a five-pound weight loss.
  • Research from the University of Massachusetts Medical School determined that those who skip breakfast are 4 ½ times more likely to be obese compared to people who make time to eat in the morning.
  • According to a Georgia Centenarian Study, individuals who eat breakfast regularly have lower rates of Type 2 diabetes and are less likely to develop heart failure over the course of their lifetime compared to than those who don’t eat breakfast. The study that looked at older Americans, over a 13-year period, suggests that regularly eating breakfast may lead to a longer-than-average life span.

References

Phillips SM et al., (2016). Protein “requirements” beyond the RDA: implications for optimizing health, Appl. Physiol. Nutr. Metab. 41: 565-572

Sarah E. Jackson, Clemens Kirschbaum, Andrew Steptoe (2017), Hair cortisol and adiposity in a population-based sample of 2,527 men and women aged 54 to 87 years. Obesity, 25 (3):539 DOI: 10.1002/oby.21733

Ivana Buric, Miguel Farias, Jonathan Jong, Christopher Mee, Inti A. Brazil (2017). What Is the Molecular Signature of Mind–Body Interventions? A Systematic Review of Gene Expression Changes Induced by Meditation and Related Practices. Frontiers in Immunology, 8 DOI: 10.3389/fimmu.2017.00670

Wilmot EG1, Edwardson CL (2012). Sedentary time in adults and the association with diabetes, cardiovascular disease and death: systematic review and meta-analysis, Diabetologia. 55(11): 2895-905. doi: 10.1007/s00125-012-2677-z

Poon, L.W., Clayton, G., & Martin, P., et al. (1989). Individual similarities and differences of the oldest-old in the Georgia Centenarian Study. The Gerontologist, 29, 43.

Boschmann M, Steiniger J, Hille U, Tank J, Adams F, Sharma AM, Klaus S, Luft FC, Jordan J. (2003). Water-induced thermogenesis. The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism. 88(12):6015-6019

Ivey, FM et al., The Effects of Age, Gender and Myostatin Genotype on the Hypertrophic Response to Heavy Resistance Strength Training. J. Gerontol: Med Sci 55A: M641-M848, 2000.

Mozaffarian D, Hao T, Rimm EB, Willett WC, and Hu FB, (2011). Changes in Diet and Lifestyle and Long-Term Weight Gain in Women and Men. New England J Med; 364:2392-2404.

Thompson SP (2017). There Is A Reason You Can’t Lose Weight

D’Adamo P.J (2015). The Many Consequences of Sugar Imbalance

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Interview with Author, Coach & Runner Jason Karp, PhD

Here is a recent Q&A session that I had the pleasure of having with author, coach and runner, Jason Karp, PhD regarding his upcoming book, Run Your Fat Off. I have also read Jason’s previous work, The Inner Runner, which was excellent.

1) Why is running the best method to lose weight?

Because running burns more calories than any other exercise, it is weight-bearing, and it demands a great need for energy production. It is also a very sustainable strategy because running becomes a part of a person’s life. It is not a short-term fix, like so many other diet programs.

cover
Source: Jason Karp, PhD

2) What inspired you to write the book?

A couple of things: 1) I know how powerful running is as a calorie burner and long-term weight loss strategy and 2) I got sick and tired of all of the diet/weight loss propaganda by people who have little understanding of what they’re talking about. Most weight loss books are short-term fixes to a long-term problem and don’t tell people the truth about sustained weight loss.

3) What’s the secret to weight loss?

You have to read the book to find out, but to give you a hint, it is about calories consumed vs. calories burned more than any other factor, and the directing of the calories consumed into energy storage for future workouts rather than fat storage. The trick is learning how to become the director of your own calorie movie, telling those calories where to go and what to do.

4) Which is better for weight loss – long, slow cardio or short fast interval workouts?

It depends. It’s all about the calories, so it’s really a matter of math. 2 hours of long, slow running may burn more calories than 20 minutes of high-intensity running. You would have to calculate the total number of calories burned during the workout, which you can do by knowing a few numbers. I go through all the calculations in the book to answer the question.

5) But don’t high-intensity workouts cause you to burn more calories after the workout is over?

This is a big misunderstanding in the fitness industry. Although it is true that the longer and/or harder the workout, the more calories we burn afterward while our body recovers (because recovery is an aerobic, energy-using process), the number of extra calories burned is highly over-exaggerated by people in the fitness industry. It is the number of calories burned during the workout that matter more. The book discusses this myth, as well as many others.

You can purchase, Run Your Fat Off, (Reader’s Digest, 2017) by Jason Karp, PhD on Amazon.

Top Fitness Trend for 2017 is Wearable Technology

Won’t leave home without your fitness tracker? If so, you’re part of a rapidly growing segment of consumers using technology to collect daily health metrics. The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) has announced its annual fitness trend forecast and, unsurprisingly, exercise pros say wearable technology will again be the top fitness trend in the coming year. The results were released in the article “Worldwide Survey of Fitness Trends for 2017” published recently in the November/December issue of ACSM’s Health & Fitness Journal®.

wearable-technology-is-the-new-businesses
Photo Credit: https://www.dreamstime.com

“Technology is now a must-have in our daily lives. Everyone can easily count steps taken or calories burned using a wearable device or a smart phone,” said Walter R. Thompson, Ph.D., FACSM, the lead author of the survey and associate dean in the College of Education & Human Development at Georgia State University in Atlanta. “The health data collected by wearable technology can be used to inform the user about their current fitness level and help them make healthier lifestyle choices.”

Now in its eleventh year, the survey was completed by more than 1,800 health and fitness professionals worldwide, many certified by ACSM, and was designed to reveal trends in various fitness environments. Forty-two potential trends were given as choices, and the top 20 were ranked and published by ACSM.

“Body weight training, high-intensity interval raining (HIIT) and educated, certified and experienced fitness professionals also remained highly ranked on the survey,” said Thompson. “These trends reflect continued strong consumer interest in strength training and functional fitness.”

The top 10 fitness trends for 2017 are:

1. Wearable Technology: includes activity trackers, smart watches, heart rate monitors and GPS tracking devices.

2. Body Weight Training: Body weight training uses minimal equipment making it more affordable. Not limited to just push-ups and pull-ups, this trend allows people to get “back to the basics” with fitness.

3. High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT): HIIT, which involves short bursts of activity followed by a short period of rest or recovery, these exercise programs are usually performed in less than 30 minutes.

4. Educated and Experienced Fitness Professionals. Given the large number of organizations offering health and fitness certifications, it’s important that consumers choose professionals certified through programs that are accredited by the National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA), such as those offered by ACSM. ACSM is one of the largest and most prestigious fitness-certification organizations in the world.

5. Strength Training. Strength training remains a central emphasis for many health clubs. Incorporating strength training is an essential part of a complete exercise program for all physical activity levels and genders. (The other essential components are aerobic exercise and flexibility.)

6. Group Training: Group exercise instructors teach, lead and motivate individuals though intentionally designed group exercise classes. Group programs are designed to be motivational and effective for people at different fitness levels, with instructors using leadership techniques that help individuals in their classes achieve fitness goals.

7. Exercise is Medicine. Exercise is Medicine is a global health initiative that is focused on encouraging primary care physicians and other health care providers to include physical activity when designing treatment plans for patients and referring their patients to exercise professionals.

8. Yoga. Based on ancient tradition, yoga utilizes a series of specific bodily postures practiced for health and relaxation. This includes Power Yoga, Yogalates, Bikram, Ashtanga, Vinyasa, Kripalu, Anurara, Kundalini, Sivananda and others.

9. Personal Training. More and more students are majoring in kinesiology, which indicates that they are preparing themselves for careers in allied health fields such as personal training. Education, training and proper credentialing for personal trainers have become increasingly important to the health and fitness facilities that employ them.

10. Exercise and Weight Loss. In addition to nutrition, exercise is a key component of a proper weight loss program. Health and fitness professionals who provide weight loss programs are increasingly incorporating regular exercise and caloric restriction for better weight control in their clients.

The full list of top 20 trends is available in the article “Worldwide Survey of Fitness Trends for 2017.”

Follow These 4 Rules if Weight Loss is Your Goal

Healthy-Weight-Loss-Tips
Credit: http://wiiskins.com

According to WHO statistics, more than 1.9 billion adults were overweight in 2014 and of these, more than 600 million were categorized as obese. The number of children, in 2013, under the age of 5 that were overweight or obese was 42 million. The good news, however, is obesity is preventable. In terms of a percentage, 38 percent were men and 40 percent were women. The worldwide prevalence of obesity has more than doubled over the past 34 years. But again, the good news is that obesity is preventable.

The goal for many is weight loss or changing their body composition, which means building more lean muscle tissue and reducing body fat. A long-term goal for men might be 80 percent lean muscle and 20 percent body fat, this would eventually shift towards 85 percent lean muscle and 15 percent body fat. For women, a long-term goal, with exercise and nutritional modification of course, might be 70 percent lean and 30 percent body fat. Eventually those numbers would shift towards 77 percent lean muscle and 23 percent body fat.

To reach your goals, you must regulate your exercise and diet. Here are a few steps to follow to help you reach your goals.

1. Remove the “empty” calories from you diet. This means do not drink your calories. The average American consumes between 400-550 calories a day from soda, sports drinks etc. You could lose a pound a week just by cutting back on this and yes, it means alcohol too. A study in the journal Obesity found that people who drink diet soda were more likely to have a higher percentage of body fat around their mid-section. Subjects who reported not drinking diet soda gained an average of 0.8 inches in their waist circumference over the 9-year period compared to 1.83 inches for occasional diet soda drinkers and more than 3 inches for people who drank diet soda every day, according to a new study recently published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society. An easy way to decrease your calories and break your diet soda routine is to simply drink more water.  Your goal is to drink water first thing in the morning to help speed up your metabolism and then again with your meals. Try a glass of water with lemon in the evening after dinner.

2. Add strength training to your exercise routine. This is critical for both lean muscle development and maintenance. Muscle is more metabolically active than fat (it takes 3x more calories per pound to maintain) and requires a third less space on your body. Strength train 2-3x a week.

3. Decrease your added sugar. Are you aware of how much added sugar you’re eating on a daily basis? If you’re drinking 1-2 medium size Cokes or other soft drinks – you’re probably already over your limit….and we have not even looked at your meals/snacks yet. If you cut your added-sugar to less than 150 calories a day (38 grams) for men and 100 calories a day (25 grams) for women, you will experience weight loss.

4. Increase your NEAT, EPOC and TEF. Let’s first define these terms and keep in mind they are important. Non-exercise activity thermogenesis or NEAT according to researcher James Levine, MD, PhD, is “the energy expended for everything we do that is not sleeping, eating or sports-like exercise. It ranges from the energy expended walking to work, typing, performing yard work, undertaking agricultural tasks and fidgeting.”

Excess post oxygen consumption or EPOC (some call it “after-burn”) is defined by Len Kravitz, PhD, as the period of time when the “body is restoring itself to its pre-exercise state, and thus is consuming oxygen at an elevated rate. This means that energy is also being expended at an elevated rate.” This occurs at a higher rate as the intensity of exercise increases and is seen following both a cardio and strength session. A very challenging strength session or high-intensity interval training (HIIT) is ideal for elevated EPOC which means your body continues to burn calories long after the bout of exercise is completed.

The thermic effect of food or TEF is defined by Reed and Hill as an “increase in metabolic rate after ingestion of a meal.” One of the many benefits of eating more good sources of lean protein as part of your diet is because protein has a higher thermic effect compared to carbohydrate and fat. Eating smaller meals more often – compared to a few big meals throughout the day – may also make better sense to you now. Your body utilizes 10 percent of its daily energy, in the form of calories, towards TEF.  For example, if you consume 2,500 calories over the course of the day, about 10 percent, or about 250 calories, will be expended on digesting, absorbing, metabolizing and eliminating that food.

Hopefully these tips will help you reach your goals and if not you can always remember that individuals who let “creeping obesity” set in, eventually, have other issues to worry about such as:

  • High Blood Pressure
  • Diabetes
  • High Cholesterol
  • Heart Disease
  • Various forms of Cancer
  • Ulcers
  • Gallstones
  • Skin Infections
  • Back Pain
  • Increased Stress levels
  • Poor Quality of Life

High Intensity Interval Training Burns More Calories, in Half the Time, than Traditional Cardio Exercise

“High-intensity interval training (HIT) describes physical exercise that is characterized by brief, intermittent bursts of vigorous activity, interspersed by periods of rest or low-intensity exercise.”

There are probably more research studies currently in progress, involving various forms of high-intensity interval training (HIIT), than any other exercise-related topic being looked at today. A great deal of the HIIT research (also known as SIT, HIT, and HIIE) that has been published over the past decade by researchers like Martin Gibala, PhD, from McMaster University in Ontario, Canada, continue to show amazing results when compared to traditional exercise. Gibala and colleagues offer their definition of HIIT above.

In a study by Matsuo and colleagues (2014), a group of sedentary men performed 13 minutes of high intensity interval training five times a week for 8-weeks. The  (HIIT) group burned more calories per minutes on average than men who performed 40 minutes of traditional steady state cardio. During the study the HIIT group saw a 12.5% gain in maximal oxygen consumption (VO2 max) using 27 less minutes of exercise. Tomoaki Matsuo, Ph.D, co-author of the study published in Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, suggest doing three-minute HIIT stages with two-minute active recovery stages repeated for three rounds.

Research presented in the Journal of Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise shows that when test subjects exercised using high-intensity intervals, the total amount of calories their body expended during one-hour post workout was elevated up to 107 percent more than with low-intensity, short duration exercise, and 143 percent more than with low intensity, long duration exercise! That’s because interval exercise peaking at levels above a 70 percent maximum-intensity effort, speeds up metabolism for up to three hours after exercise – a benefit not found with low-intensity exercise.

A study published in the Journal of Applied Physiology (1990) by Makrides et al., showed that 12-weeks of high-intensity training produced greater increases in total work accomplished in 30 seconds in old (60-70 year old, 12.5%) than young (20-30 year old, 8%) test subjects.

One study in the journal Metabolism compared 20-weeks of aerobic training with only 15-weeks of high intensity interval training (HIIT) in which participants did 15 sprints for 30-seconds and lost nine times more body fat than the aerobic and control groups. They also lost 12 percent more visceral belly fat than the aerobic group.

A study in the International Journal of Obesity compared the effect of 15-weeks of HIIT with aerobic exercise. The HIIT group resulted in significant decreases in overall fat mass (3.3 pounds) while the aerobic exercise group had a fat gain of 1 pound on average. The HIIT group also had a significant 9.5 percent decrease in belly fat, while the aerobic group increased their belly fat by 10.5 percent by the end of the study. A 2012 study at Colorado State University found that test subjects who worked out on a stationary bike for less than 25 minutes, with just a few sprints mixed in, expended an additional 200 calories a day, due to excess-post oxygen consumption (EPOC) or commonly known as the after-burn effect.

A 2015 study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research by Falcone and colleagues, compared the energy expenditure of single exercise sessions using resistance, aerobic, and combined exercise involving the same duration. The test subjects were young, active men. All sessions were 30-minutes. The resistance training session used 75 percent of their 1-RM, the aerobic session, on a treadmill, used 70 percent maximum heart rate while a high-intensity interval session (HIIT) session was done on a hydraulic resistance system (HRS). The HRS workout used intervals of 20-seconds of maximum effort followed by 40-seconds of rest. The HIIT session using the HRS had the highest caloric expenditure of the three workouts. The data suggest that individuals can burn more calories performing HIIT with HRS than spending the same amount of time performing steady-state exercise.

A 2007 study published in the Journal of Applied Physiology looked at moderately active women who in their early twenties. The subjects were tested for power output on a stationary bike to determine what their VO2max was and then made to ride for 60-minutes at 60% of VO2max intensity. These tests were then repeated again at the end of the study to gauge the effectiveness of HIIT for this particular subject group. This particular training protocol showed some of the following results: a lower heart rate in the last 30 minutes of the 60-minute session, whole body fat oxidation increased significantly by 36 percent in only two-weeks using just 7 workout sessions.

A final study, published in the journal Cell Metabolism (2012), observed healthy but inactive people who exercised intensely. The research concluded even if the exercise was brief, it produced an immediate change in their DNA. “While the underlying genetic code in the muscle remains unchanged, exercise causes important structural and chemical changes to the DNA molecules within the muscles.”

Adrian Peterson, Leon Hall
Credit: http://vancouverhealthcoach.com

As the HIIT research continues to demonstrate, it would be advantageous to supplement your current exercise routine with at least one HIIT session each week to maximize your training results. HIIT continues to show significant results when looking at total caloric expenditure, gains in VO2max, and elevated post oxygen consumption (EPOC).

References

Matsuo T, Saotome K, Seino S, Shimojo N, Matsushita A, Iemitsu M, Ohshima H, Tanaka K, Mukai C. (2014). Effects of a low-volume aerobic-type interval exercise on VO2max and cardiac mass. Sports Exerc. 46(1):42-50. doi:10.1249/MSS.0b013e3182a38da8

Falcone PH, Tai CY, Carson LR, Joy JM, Mosman MM, McCann TR, Crona KP, Kim MP, Moon JR (2015). Caloric expenditure of aerobic, resistance, or combined high-intensity interval training using a hydraulic resistance system in healthy men. Strength Cond Res. 29(3):779-85. doi: 10.1519/JSC.000000000000066

Makrides L. Heigenhauser GJ. Jones NL (1990). High-intensity endurance training in 20- to 30- and 60- to 70-yr-old healthy men. Journal of Applied Physiology. 69(5):1792-8.

HIIT Study Improves Both Health and Physical Function

Previous research has shown that high intensity interval training (HIIT) improves aerobic and anaerobic capacity, lean muscle level, glucose tolerance, insulin sensitivity in addition to other health/fitness markers.

Researchers from the Division of Sport and Exercise Science at Abertay University in Dundee, Scotland and Leeds Trinity University in Leeds, UK demonstrated for the first time that HIIT needs to be “performed only twice a week to see major improvements in aerobic capacity, functional capacity and metabolic health in a middle-aged population.”

biology-03-00333-g001-1024
Figure 1. VO2max data. Source: Biology 3(2): 333-344, 2014

During middle age (defined as 35 to 58 years old), adults typically see an 8 percent drop in both VO2 max (aerobic capacity) and insulin sensitivity per decade. This study showed  just 16 sessions of HIIT over an eight week period, with one or two days of rest between each sprint, offset these and other changes seen with aging. The participants in this study experienced a significant increase in VO2max of 8 percent (see Figure 1). Each training session consisted of 10 repeated 6-second all-out cycling efforts against 7.5% of body weight for males and 6.5% for females (on a Monark peak bike Model 894E).

Short duration HIIT continues to show impressive results in health and physical function compared to traditional, long duration, steady state exercise that most people continue to do. Adding in 1-2 days/week of HIIT would seem warranted as a result of this and other well-documented HIIT research.

Reference

Simon Adamson, Ross Lorimer, James Cobley, Ray Lloyd and John Babraj (2014). High Intensity Training Improves Health and Physical Function in Middle Aged Adults. Biology, 3(2): 333-344; doi:10.3390/biology3020333

Suggested Reading

John Babraj Niels Vollaard et al., (2009). Short duration high intensity interval training substantially improves insulin action in young healthy males. Endocrine Disorders 9:3  doi:10.1186/1472-6823-9-3

Listen to Science, HIIT Will Transform Your Body

Fitness fads come and go, but the resurgence of High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) might be here to stay.

HIIT uses a combination of quick intervals of intense exercise and short recovery periods to increase your heart rate, burn fat and work muscles in a short amount of time. In fact, HIIT is becoming the go-to training method for many professional fitness instructors. The allure lies in the ability to complete an entire workout in less than 20 minutes and burn fat. In fact, this type of training burns more fat than a regular 45 minute cardio session since it keeps your heart rate up and gives your metabolic rate a boost.

21Mike Volkin, creator of HIIT the Game, now on Kickstarter states “HIIT is just fun, it’s a fun way to mix up any routine and it can be done by just about anyone, and anywhere.”

A study performed at Laval University in Canada used two groups of participants. One group followed a 15-week program using HIIT while the other group performed only steady-state cardio for 20 weeks. The steady-state cardio group actually burned 15,000 calories more than the HIIT group. But, the HIIT group lost significantly more body fat. There are many scientific studies with similar results.

Aside from being quick and very effective at both burning fat and increasing metabolism, HIIT is appealing to many because no equipment is required. This training method uses bodyweight exercises so a workout can be done anywhere from a gym to a living room.

Another great aspect of high intensity interval training is variety. Everyone has complained that their workout routine gets boring and stale after a while, but with HIIT it doesn’t have to be that way. You can change things up and try something new every week if you want. Variety not only maintains enthusiasm during training but it will benefit the body immensely through a process called muscle confusion. Targeting a wide array of muscle groups and performing different exercises regularly is going produce results fast.

Lastly, even though HIIT workouts are short, usually 20 minutes, they actually improve endurance. HIIT works, if you’re skeptical, give it a try for a week and see how you feel, at the very least, it is a great plateau breaker of your current routine.

Can High-Intensity Interval Training Really Improve Health and Fitness?

A paper published by Gillen and Gibala tested the hypothesis that high-intensity interval training (HIIT) can be used as a time-efficient strategy to improve health and fitness. Their paper was basically a literature review of HIIT research studies that used 2, 6, 12-15 weeks of low-volume HIIT. They state that results of these types of studies show promising results but more research is still warranted.

“While the findings from these small pilot projects are intriguing, large-scale investigations with appropriate participant screening and monitoring are clearly warranted, including randomized clinical trials to directly compare low-volume HIIT versus traditional endurance training in a comprehensive manner, especially in those with, or at risk for, cardiometabolic disorders.”

Research has consistently demonstrated the positive use of HIIT to improve among other things, aerobic capacity, insulin sensitivity, muscle oxidative capacity, and exercise tolerance with as little as one to three sessions a week.  Exercise sessions, typically, involve <10 minutes of hard “all-out” exercise followed by brief recovery periods coupled with a warm-up and cool-down that equates to, typically, <30 minute sessions.

source: http://fitnessgametraining.com
source: http://fitnessgametraining.com

Most governing bodies, like the CDC, WHO and Surgeon General, publish content stipulating 150-minutes of moderate-intensity (or 75-minutes of vigorous) exercise is needed to keep disease at bay.  Is it time to alter some of these findings due to the abundance of HIIT research that has been published over the last four decades?  There is now evidence that HIIT is as effective as traditional, longer duration, steady-state type exercise.

With the number one reported reason for not exercising typically being – “lack of time” – maybe <150 minutes of moderate or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise guidelines should soon be cut in half?; possibly getting more individuals to start/continue with an exercise routine using, at times, HIIT.

 Suggested Reading on the Topic

High-Intensity Interval Training, American College of Sports Medicine

Short-term sprint interval versus traditional endurance training: similar initial adaptations in human skeletal muscle and exercise performance (2006). Gibala, M., et. al.

High-Intensity Interval Training: New Insights, (2007). Gatorade Sports Science Institute, Gibala, M.

Why Your Workout Should be High-Intensity, (2015). New York Times, Brody, J.

How to Customize a Workout Program Based on Your Body Type

617cdbf429754b9120d16617eb4436bcBy understanding your body type, you can customize a workout program to be more effective than an “out of the box” workout program. Customizing a workout program based on your body type is surprisingly easy. Before you start developing a workout program you have to identify your body type (also called somatotype). There are three basics somatotypes; mesomorph, ectomorph, and endomorph. A mesomorphic body is ideal. They are the individuals who are athletic with a strong frame that can easily gain muscle while remaining quite lean. Ectomorphs are those with thin delicate frames that have a hard time gaining weight, have a fast metabolism and very lean muscle definition. Lastly, endomorphs are the heavier individuals that have a round shape who find it difficult to burn fat but can gain muscle mass easily.

Mesomorphs

If you are a mesomorph, lucky you! Since you can gain muscle mass fast your program has to include cardiovascular exercise to keep your body lean. Twenty five to thirty minutes of cardio 3 times a week is recommended. As for training, stay within 8-12 reps for each set with a 1 minute rest in between. Make sure to include a variety of exercises to continue to challenge your body, maintain muscle and improve strength as well as endurance.

Ectomorphs

Ectomorphs have to customize their fitness program to work against their natural thinness. To do so select short and intense exercises that target major muscle groups like the biceps, triceps, abdominals and hamstrings. This type of workout will help with muscle development. When doing any sort of weight or resistance training, train heavier and keep your repetitions within the 5-10 range. As for cardio, keep it to a minimum since burning fat is not needed. As for rest periods, 2 minute rests between sets are suggested. Since you will be doing more intense exercise you need additional time to recover.

Endomorphs

Endomorphs on the other hand have to embrace cardio in order to burn fat and maintain a good body fat percentage. Do cardio as much as you can and be sure to change it up. Try swimming, running, HIIT, cycling and any other form of cardiovascular exercise that interests you. Aside from that you do need weight and resistance training. It is highly recommended that you do compound lifts and stick with 8-15 repetitions per set with 30 second of rest. Challenging major muscle groups will speed up your metabolism to help keep the excess body fat off.

This article was authored by Michael Volkin, inventor of Strength Stack 52 bodyweight fitness cards and the all new HIIT the Game.

The Research Backing HIIT: High-Intensity Interval Training

The buzzword in the fitness industry this past year was definitely high-intensity interval training, also referred to as HIIT. HIIT reached the number one spot in the 2014 survey for exercise trends published by the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM). According to one source, HIIT will end up at the number two spot for 2015 on that same ACSM list, replaced by body weight exercise as the new exercise trend. HIIT however is not a new to the spotlight, it has been around for more than a century. Some of the greatest runners in the world have used various forms of HIIT as part of their training. As early as 1912, the Finnish Olympic long-distance runner Hannes Kolehmainen was using interval training in his workouts (Billat 2001). Research has demonstrated that HIIT:

• Improves the performance of competitive athletes.

• Improves health outcomes for recreational exercisers.

• Provides the same benefits of endurance training but with fewer workouts covering less time.

One thing you can bank on, HIIT gets results, when done correctly. HIIT is one of the most effective means of improving cardiorespiratory and metabolic function in both athletes and recreational exercisers. HIIT involves repeated short-to-long bouts of high-intensity exercise (90-100% VO2max) interspersed with recovery periods. The term HIIT can be used to

Photo credit: http://intervaltraining.net
Photo credit: http://intervaltraining.net

describe protocols in which the training stimulus is near maximal effort or the target intensity is between 80 and 100% of maximal heart rate. HIIT typically involves repeated short bouts of exercise (<45 seconds) to long bouts (2-4 minutes) of high-intensity exercise interspersed with recovery periods. Traditional high volume aerobic exercise training has been shown to reduce cardiovascular and metabolic disease risk but involves a significant investment of time. Extremely low volume HIIT has been shown to produce improvements to aerobic function.

Humpreys and Holman credit the famous German coach Woldemar Gerschler, as the person who formalized a structured system of interval training back in the 1930’s. Exercise Physiologists Fox and Matthews have identified the following five variables that need to be adjusted individually for each athlete during a HIIT session:

-Rate and distance of the work interval.

-Number of repetitions and sets during each training session.

-Duration of the rest, recovery or relief interval.

-Type of activity during the rest interval.

-Frequency of training per week.

The following list includes just a few of the many research studies that have been published looking at various health and fitness benefits of HIIT.

  • A 2011 study presented at the ACSM annual meeting showed 2 weeks of HIIT improved aerobic capacity as much as 6-8 weeks of traditional endurance training.
  • A 2006 study found after doing 8 weeks if HIIT subjects could bike twice as long when they started the study while maintaining the same pace.
  • Researchers from Canada’s McMaster University looked at the effects of interval exercise on VO2max. Training was performed on a stationary cycle ergometer for three days each week. The program began with four intervals lasting 30 seconds each, separated by a 4-minute rest period. By the seventh week the number of intervals had increased to ten, while the rest intervals were gradually reduced to 2.5 min. VO2max increased by 9%, demonstrating that significant gains in VO2max could be achieved from exercise of a relatively short duration.
  • A group of researchers from Japan’s National Institute of Fitness and Sport found a high-intensity intermittent training program achieved bigger gains in VO2max than a program of steady cycling. Active male subjects were assigned to one of two groups, each training 5 days per week for 6 weeks. One group followed a training program involving 60-minutes of moderate intensity exercise (@70% VO2max), totaling 5 hours per week. The average improvement in VO2max in this group was 9%. Training sessions involving the other group consisted of eight all-out work bouts, each lasting 20 seconds followed by 10 seconds of rest (Tabata et al., 1997). This group cycled for a total of only 20 minutes per week, but their VO2max still improved significantly by 15%.
  • A study from the University of New South Wales in Australia, found women lost an average of 10.5% of their fat mass after just 15-weeks on a 3x/wk program using 20 minute workouts consisting of 8 second sprints (on a stationary bike) followed by 12 seconds of passive recovery = 60 total sprints. Subjects in a control group lost considerably less fat doing traditional endurance exercise despite spending roughly 400% more time pedaling.

References

Billat, L.V (2001). Interval training for performance: A scientific and empirical practice. Special recommendations for middle-and long-distance running. Part I: aerobic interval training. Sports Medicine, 31(1): 13-31.

MacDougall, J.D., et al. (1998). Muscle performance and enzymatic adaptations to sprint interval training. Journal of Applied Physiology, 84 (6): 2138–2142.

Tabata I, Irisawa K, Kouzaki M, Nishimura K, Ogita F, Miyachi (1997). Metabolic profile of high intensity intermittent exercises. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 29(3): 390-395.

Gibala MJ, Little JP, van Essen M, Wilkin GP, Burgomaster KA, Safdar A, Raha S, and Tarnopolsky MA (2006). Short-term sprint interval versus traditional endurance training: similar initial adaptations in human skeletal muscle and exercise performance. The Journal of Physiology, 575, 901-911.