By Brian B. Parr, Ph.D. ACSM Certified Clinical Exercise Physiologist
The next time you are at the gym sweating through an hour on the elliptical machine or going for a long run to improve your fitness, think about this: you may be able to get the same benefits with just a few minutes of exercise. Sound too good to be true? Depending on your goals, high-intensity interval training (HIIT) may work for you. It’s not as easy as it sounds, though. The exercise must be done at a very high intensity, often in short intervals separated by periods of rest or light exercise. Let’s explore the research, benefits, and drawbacks of HIIT.
Exercise to improve cardiorespiratory fitness typically involves 20–60 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise done 3–5 days per week. This type of exercise is common for people who are training for an event like a 10k run since it leads to improvements in maximal exercise capacity (called VO2max) and endurance by increasing heart function and promoting changes in the muscle. These training adaptations are important for performance in endurance events like running, cycling, and swimming that require sustained effort. Traditionally, this type of training is also used by most people who are interested in losing weight or getting in shape, even if they aren’t competitive athletes.
Research and practical experience have shown that shorter HIIT sessions can be effective for improving fitness, too. For example, in one study these intervals were as short as 30 seconds of all-out, maximal exercise separated by rest periods, for a total of just six minutes of exercise per day. Other studies employ slightly less intense (still 90% of maximal heart rate) intervals for a total of 20 minutes of exercise per session. The results show that HIIT leads to adaptations in the muscle and improvements in VO2max that are greater than that of more traditional, lower intensity exercise.
A more recent study showed that sessions of one minute – yes, 60 seconds – of intense exercise can match the fitness and health benefits of more traditional workouts. Subjects in the study completed three, 20-second bouts of all-out, near maximal exercise separated by two minutes of light cycling on a stationary bike. After doing this three times per week for 12 weeks the changes in heart rate, muscle function, and blood glucose regulation were the same as those experienced by subjects who did the same number of 45 minute workouts, but at a lower intensity. Clearly, intensity matters when it comes to fitness and health benefits of exercise!
Does this mean that high-intensity training is right for you? It depends on several factors. First, the risk of injury during intense exercise is greater than during more moderate exercise. At the very least, exercise of this intensity is likely to be uncomfortable. Second, exercising at a high intensity may not be a good idea if you are not already in good shape or have other health problems like diabetes, high blood pressure, or heart disease. Third, HIIT may not be the best way for you to meet your exercise goals. If you exercise to lose weight your emphasis should be on duration, not intensity, to burn calories. If you are trying to build endurance for a marathon or long distance bike ride, you really do need to focus on longer duration exercise at least some of the time. Finally, this type of training doesn’t do much to help you meet other fitness goals including improving strength and flexibility, so you will still need to spend additional time in the gym.
For most people, there is little harm in trying some higher-intensity exercise, even just one day per week. In fact, many group exercise classes are designed to be a high-intensity workout, so this might be a good way to add more intense training sessions to your exercise routine. The bottom line is that HIIT should be part of your exercise regimen, not the whole program. Keep in mind that if you add up the total exercise time, including the warm-up, time between intervals, and recovery, the “one minute” workout is more like 10 minutes of exercise. This is still shorter than what you would probably do anyway, but certainly not a true 60 second workout.
Here is an example of a “one minute” HIIT workout used in a research study. The researchers in this study used a specialized cycle ergometer because the work load is easy to monitor, but you can do it on any stationary bike, treadmill, or rowing machine. The key is to alternate very intense work intervals with light recovery intervals. Keep in mind that “intense” is a relative term, so the resistance or speed you use may be different from what others do.
If this seems like too much, the good news is that HIIT is scalable. You can even incorporate HIIT intervals into walking or jogging outdoors. If your normal exercise routine is walking (or jogging) at a comfortable speed, try adding intervals of faster walking (or running). You can keep track of your time or use landmarks like blocks, lamp posts, or driveways to mark the start and end of your intervals. Going uphill and downhill is also a good way to introduce high-intensity work and recovery intervals into your routine.
As with any new type of exercise, listen to your body. If it feels like you are doing too much, slow down or rest. Doing something you don’t enjoy or that leads to injury won’t help you in the long run, no matter how effective the exercise may be. Lasting health and fitness benefits come from adopting an active lifestyle that includes regular exercise to improve endurance, strength, and flexibility, even if it isn’t HIIT.
Dig Deeper: The One Minute Workout: Science Shows a Way to Get Fit That’s Smarter, Faster, Shorter By Martin Gabala and Christopher Shulgan A decade ago, Martin Gibala was a young researcher in the field of exercise physiology – with little time to exercise. That critical point in his career launched a passion for high-intensity interval training (HIIT), allowing him to stay in shape with just a few minutes of hard effort.
The One Minute Workout includes the eight best basic interval workouts as well as four micro workouts customized for individual needs and preferences (you may not quite want to go all out every time).
The One Minute Workout solves the number-one reason we don’t exercise: lack of time. After all, everybody has one minute to spare.
The Mississippi Seafood Trail of restaurants was established by the Mississippi Hospitality and Restaurant Association in 2014 to promote restaurants that proudly serve wild-caught, genuine Gulf seafood. With 42 participating restaurants from North Mississippi to the Gulf Coast, you’ll find daily menu specials featuring seafood favorites like fresh crab and tasty finfish, to delectable oysters and succulent shrimp.
According to Mike Cashion of the MS Hospitality and Restaurant Association, to qualify, a restaurant simply needs to offer at least one entree item that comes from the Gulf on the menu throughout the year. “This makes it possible for po-boy shops and other specialty shops to participate, as well as traditional seafood restaurants.”
Well-Being also spoke to Melissa Scallan, Public Affairs Director of the Mississippi Department of Marine Resources about how the MS Seafood Trail helps promote Gulf Seafood throughout the State.
“Our goal at the Department of Marine Resources is to encourage more people to buy local seafood to prepare at home and to request it when they are eating out,” notes Scallan. “We are excited to support the Seafood Trail because it helps to spread awareness about the excellent quality and taste of Gulf seafood.”
Whether you are a visitor to the State or a native son or daughter, you can’t go wrong when you visit one of the many participating restaurants along the MS Seafood Trail.
Gulf Seafood Fact: The Gulf Coast produces 70 percent of the nation’s oysters, 69 percent of domestic shrimp, and is a leading producer of domestic hard and soft-shell blue crabs.
Gulf Seafood Fact: Seafood contains high-quality protein and a variety of essential nutrients, such as vitamins B6 and B12, and some varieties are a natural source of vitamin D.
Gulf Seafood Fact: The Gulf Coast seafood industry has some of most stringent regulations around to assure the safety and quality of seafood and to prevent over-fishing and other unsustainable practices.
Gulf Seafood Fact: Gulf seafood is low in saturated fat, but it offers healthy omega-3 fatty acids that have been shown to help reduce the risk of heart disease.
Gulf Seafood Fact: Gulf shrimp and some finfish are at peak season in May and June.
JACKSON, Miss. – Last fall Belhaven University mobilized a collaborative effort among churches to address the issue of mental health in Mississippi. So many of the challenges facing the state have a mental health component, and the church is often the first place people turn to for help.
Bridging the gap between faith, mental health and health leaders, Belhaven’s Institute for International Care and Counsel hosted over 170 pastors, mental health workers, social workers, nurses and community leaders. They explored ways to work together in advocacy, prevention, support and training.
The Mind, Body, Spirit: Connecting Faith and Wellness summit featured keynote speakers, workshops, discussions and several short, powerful talks related to health and mental health. The event specifically focused on raising awareness, reducing stigma, creating stronger relationships and building a sustainable plan for the future of mental health in Mississippi.
According to Belhaven University President Roger Parrott, the summit laid the groundwork for future training, conferences and projects. “We’re looking forward to ways in which we can work together going forward to address this critical need all across the state of Mississippi.”
By Brian B. Parr, Ph.D. ACSM Certified Clinical Exercise Physiologist
If you play sports or exercise regularly you probably have experienced some sort of injury. Hopefully yours was just a minor muscle strain, joint sprain, or soreness after a workout. Sports-related injuries are common, and most people who exercise report some type of injury in a given year. Thankfully, most are not serious enough to prevent continuing an exercise program, especially if minor injuries are addressed before they progress to cause more lasting damage. If you do sustain a muscle or joint injury you will probably ice the affected area to help it heal. But there are also several other techniques that can help speed recovery.
RICE is Nice
The most common recommendation for treating a minor exercise injury is to use ice to reduce swelling and speed healing. For example, an ankle sprain might be treated by sitting with the injured leg elevated while applying ice; later the joint might be wrapped with athletic tape to provide support and further reduce inflammation. This combination is called RICE – rest, ice, compression, elevation – and makes intuitive sense. Staying off the injured limb prevents further injury and allows healing to begin. And it seems reasonable that reducing inflammation through cold therapy, compression, and elevation can reduce pain and enhance repair of the injured muscles, tendons, or ligaments. It is also something that people can do at home without medical guidance. For most of us, RICE is how we have been told to treat minor injuries.
Other Techniques on the Treatment Menu
In recent years, many athletic trainers and athletes have begun to use several other treatments for sports injuries. These techniques have become more visible, thanks in part to their use by professional and Olympic athletes. Their popularity is in part due to the realization that inflammation is a key component in tissue repair and in some cases reducing it with ice therapy might actually hinder injury healing. More and more sports medicine professionals are using modalities other than (or in addition to) RICE to treat many injuries. Let’s explore a few alternative treatments for sports injuries – voodoo flossing, cupping, and kinesio taping.
Do That VooDoo
The benefits of compression for injury healing can be achieved by tightly wrapping an injured area with a rubber band, called “floss,” for a short time, usually less than a minute. This technique, commonly called voodoo flossing, is used to increase joint mobility and speed healing of minor injuries. Tightly wrapping a joint has several potential effects which can help improve movement and reduce pain. When voodoo floss is applied to a joint it presses the skin, muscle, and fascia (the layers between the skin and muscle) together. Then, moving the joint forces these tissues to slide past each other, breaking adhesions between the layers. When the floss is removed, the tissues can move more freely. Compressing the tissue also reduces blood flow which, paradoxically, results in even greater blood flow when the floss is released, providing nutrients to the injured area.
A Cup to Go
Cupping gained much attention this past summer when swimmer Michael Phelps appeared at a race in the Olympics with large red welts on his back. He wasn’t hurt, as many feared. Rather, he was using cupping as a technique to treat injury and improve performance. Cupping literally involves the application of glass or plastic cups to the skin for several minutes, typically 5–15 minutes. Using either vacuum or heat, the cups pull the skin away from the underlying muscle tissue, increasing blood flow and improving movement. Athletes and trainers who use it tout its effectiveness, despite the painful red spots that remain on the skin. While cupping may be new to most of us, it is far from a modern technique. In fact, cupping has been used since ancient times and factors prominently in traditional Chinese medicine. Its use by athletes is more recent, and is becoming more widespread among amateur, professional, and recreational athletes.
Roll Tape – Kinesio Tape that is
While voodoo flossing and cupping have a role in treating injuries and improving performance in the training room, there is a relatively new modality that can be used during exercise to enhance performance. Kinesio tape, also called K-tape, is applied over specific muscles to reduce pain and improve movement. The tape actually pulls the skin away from the underlying muscle, which increases blood flow and enhances movement, much like cupping. The difference is that kinesio tape can be used during exercise, as many people first saw on the shoulders of beach volleyball players in the 2008 Olympics. The fact that kinesio tape actually improves movement distinguishes it from the taping or bracing that many athletes use to stabilize joints to prevent injury during exercise.
DIY Injury Prevention and Care
While many sports medicine professionals still recommend RICE as a first line of treatment for minor injuries, they are increasingly utilizing other techniques as well. With a little training, is it possible for athletes to use some of these less traditional methods at home to treat their own minor injuries so they can get back to the road, pool, field, or gym? Obviously, it is important to learn how to properly use these methods. Also, it may be difficult for someone who is not a professional to evaluate whether they are working. Improper treatment can delay healing and may make some injuries worse. Before trying one of these alternative paths to treatment, it may be wise to check with a trained professional. Your injury could be more serious than you realize and require attention by a sports medicine professional or physician. That said, if you are looking for an injury treatment beyond RICE, voodoo flossing, cupping, and kinesio tape might be worth consideration.
Something to Consider
Well-Being spoke to Mike Wilkinson, MS, ATC, who is the director of athletic training outreach services for Mississippi Sports Medicine and Orthopedic Center, about his thoughts on the newer treatment techniques discussed in this article, from his perspective as an athletic trainer.
“These are all typical modalities used to increase circulation,” notes Wilkinson. “They all work to some extent, although research about their effectiveness has been varied, with some showing success and some not. However none of the three discussed are covered by insurance, so they are primarily used by high level elite athletes who can afford to pay cash for their treatments. That is why you do not see them in a typical PT clinic.
Brian B. Parr, Ph.D., is an ACSM Certified Clinical Exercise Physiologist and Associate Professor in the Department of Exercise and Sports Science at the University of South Carolina Aiken.
May 30th 2017
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