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New Study: LESS Cardio Gives Better Results

April 15, 2010 | 138,772 views
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Working out for 20 minutes a day using interval exercise may provide many of the same benefits of much longer workouts done in conventional “long-duration” style.

Many experts “recommend that children and teenagers exercise one hour every day and adults get a weekly minimum of two hours and 30 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity."

"This could be activities such as brisk walking, dancing, gardening) or one hour and 15 minutes of vigorous activity (jogging, aerobic dancing and jumping rope,” CNN reported.

However, a new study in the Journal of Physiology found that about 20 minutes of high-interval training provided the same benefits of longer exercise sessions that focused on endurance training.

As CNN reported, “The study suggested that quick, high-interval training may represent an alternative to endurance training to improve metabolic health and reduce the risk for chronic diseases.”

Dr. Mercola's Comments:

One of the biggest hurdles people face in maintaining an exercise program is simply finding the time to do it. This may soon become an excuse of the past, however, as the newest exercise research is showing that you can cut your workout time significantly and reap even better benefits …

How?

By using interval training, which also goes by other terms such as anaerobic, burst or PACE training.

When you break your exercise session into short segments that alternate high intensity with a rest period in-between, known as interval training, it can dramatically improve your cardiovascular fitness and fat-burning capabilities in a fraction of the time.

Take this latest study, in which men pedaled on a stationary bike for 20 minutes using interval training (they pedaled at the highest intensity they could for a minute, then pedaled slowly to rest for a minute, and so on for the 20-minute period).

These men received the same benefits as they would have had they exercised at a lower intensity for one hour or more, leading researchers to say interval training "may represent an alternative to endurance training to improve metabolic health and reduce the risk for chronic diseases."

Personally Helped Me Greatly

Adopting this strategy has made a HUGE improvement in my exercise program. Not only are the burst exercises awesome and add an entirely different aspect to my fitness program, they allow me the flexibility of being able to exercise nearly every day.

On days when I am very short on time it is almost always possible to put in a 15-minute workout. It is also short enough to allow my body to recover from the abuses I put it through on my other exercise days.

What Makes Interval Training So Effective?

I’ve been exercising for over 42 years, but for much of it I focused on running, or cardio. While this is an important form of exercise, there are others that are equally if not more important, namely strength training, developing your core muscles, stretching and interval training.

This realization was motivated by Al Sears, MD, who reawakened me to the value of interval training with his P.A.C.E. program. Here's how Dr. Sears explained it to me:

Long-duration exercise isn't natural. Our ancient ancestors never ran for mile after mile without rest or recovery. Their exercise was primarily hunting -- short bursts of exertion, followed by periods of rest.

By exercising in short bursts, followed by periods of recovery, you recreate exactly what your body needs for optimum health. Further, by progressively changing your routine over time it ensures maximum fat loss with a "bulletproof" heart and "super-sized" lungpower.

According to Dr. Sears, the big mistake with aerobics and jogging is when you burn fat. Once you pass the 15 to 20 minute mark, you start burning fat during exercise.

This may sound like a good thing, but what this tells your body is that you need fat to burn as fuel during exercise. As a result, your body will make and store more fat to prepare for your next run or aerobic workout -- a never-ending cycle making it difficult to get rid of that stubborn fat that never seems to go away.

Burn MORE Fat and Get BETTER Results

Several studies have confirmed that exercising in shorter bursts with rest periods in between burns more fat than exercising continuously for an entire session. This has been shown to hold true even when the session is not done at an extremely high intensity.

In one such study, those who cycled for 40 minutes, alternating four-minute bursts at 90 percent effort with two minutes of rest, improved their cardiovascular fitness by 13 percent, and were able to burn 36 percent more fat during a later hour-long moderate cycling session.

Another study took it even further, showing you can burn more fat exercising for 20 minutes than for 40 minutes!

In their trial, women either exercised for 20 minutes, alternating 8 seconds of sprinting on a bike with 12 seconds of exercising lightly, or exercised at a regular pace for 40 minutes. After exercising three times a week for 15 weeks, those who did the 20-minute, alternating routine lost three times as much fat as the other women.

The researchers believe this type of exercise works because it produces a unique metabolic response. Intermittent sprinting produces high levels of chemical compounds called catecholamines, which allow more fat to be burned from under your skin and within your muscles. The resulting increase in fat oxidation is thought to drive the increased weight loss.

Again, one of the best parts of interval training is that it cuts down on the amount of time you need to exercise, which is great if you don’t have time for hour-long cardio workouts

Interval Training is Only Part of a Balanced Exercise Routine

Exercise is one of the most important tools that you can implement to gain optimal health, but it’s important to include a variety of activities. Otherwise, your body will quickly adapt to your program, and whenever exercise becomes easy to complete, it’s a sign you need to work a little harder and give your body a new challenge.

So when you’re planning your exercise routine, make sure it incorporates the following types of exercise:

  1. Aerobic: Jogging, using an elliptical machine, and walking fast are all examples of aerobic exercise. As you get your heart pumping, the amount of oxygen in your blood improves, and endorphins, which act as natural painkillers, increase. Meanwhile, aerobic exercise activates your immune system, helps your heart pump blood more efficiently, and increases your stamina over time.

  2. Interval (Anaerobic) Training: Again, this is when you alternate short bursts of high-intensity exercise with gentle recovery periods.

  3. Strength Training: Rounding out your exercise program with a 1-set strength training routine will ensure that you're really optimizing the possible health benefits of a regular exercise program.

    You need enough repetitions to exhaust your muscles. The weight should be heavy enough that this can be done in fewer than 12 repetitions, yet light enough to do a minimum of four repetitions. It is also important NOT to exercise the same muscle groups every day. They need at least two days of rest to recover, repair and rebuild.

  4. Core Exercises: Your body has 29 core muscles located mostly in your back, abdomen and pelvis. This group of muscles provides the foundation for movement throughout your entire body, and strengthening them can help protect and support your back, make your spine and body less prone to injury and help you gain greater balance and stability.

    Exercise programs like Pilates and yoga are also great for strengthening your core muscles, as are specific exercises you can learn from a personal trainer.

  5. Stretching: My favorite type of stretching is active isolated stretches developed by Aaron Mattes. With Active Isolated Stretching, you hold each stretch for only two seconds, which works with your body's natural physiological makeup to improve circulation and increase the elasticity of muscle joints. This technique also allows your body to repair itself and prepare for daily activity.

Exercise is a Key Secret to Your Optimal Well-Being

Most Americans suffer from an “exercise deficiency,” which contributes to two-thirds of the U.S. population being overweight, and tens of millions of others with high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes -- all of whom desperately need more exercise to control their underlying condition. 

Exercise is simply one of the most powerful tools available to drop your insulin levels, and elevated insulin levels are one of the primary drivers for these types of illnesses and weight gain. It is my belief that properly performed exercise is far more powerful for controlling these symptoms than any drug yet developed.

Please remember I recommend viewing exercise as a drug that needs to be precisely prescribed to achieve maximum benefits. The simple act of “writing out a prescription” for exercise is an excellent approach to taking a proactive approach for your health and weight.

If possible, I would also strongly encourage you to consult with an exercise professional. There are many outstanding trainers out there and there hasn’t been one trainer I have worked with who hasn’t been able to teach me some great new exercise tips.

And if you’re looking for some motivation, remember that exercise is far less expensive than virtually any other medical intervention, and it will radically reduce your risk of most every disease you can come down with.

Plus, and most importantly, it makes you feel GREAT.