I’m a little worried about my risk of cardiovascular problems. My dad began to have heart problems in his 50’s (younger than I am now) and eventually died of cardiovascular complications at age 72.
My LDL cholesterol is starting to creep up and my HDL is a little too low. And lately, when I check my blood pressure, it’s 130/80. I have to start taking my cardiac health seriously.
Fortunately, I’ve managed to lose about seven pounds over the last year. I exercise regularly. But….. I’m pretty lazy.
So if there’s an easier way to do something, I’m totally in favor of it.
And recently, in the light of new research, I’ve changed my approach to exercise completely.
Goodbye to “cardio”
For years, the formula for heart-healthy exercise has been:
- Raise your heart rate to the target zone (about 80% of your maximum safe range, which is based on your age) and
- Keep it there for a minimum of 20 minutes. Longer is even better.
There’s nothing wrong with this type of program. You’re a heck of a lot better off if you follow it than if you’re a total couch potato.
But it turns out that it’s more important to get your heart pumping to its maximum, even if it’s for briefer periods. The blood rushing through your arteries actually scours out the bad plaque that’s building up on the inside of your artery walls. The faster you can get your blood flowing, the more effective the flushing effect will be.
You’ll build more muscle and burn more fat with shorter bursts of intense exercise, too.
Welcome to HIIT Training: High Intensity Interval Training
Based on this research, here’s the new, simple exercise plan I’ve suggested to a lot of my patients:
- Run (or if you can’t run, walk) as fast as you can for 45 seconds.
- Then slow down for the next 45 seconds to catch your breath. It’s okay if you slow to a jog or even a walking pace. But make sure to keep moving.
- Next, ramp up to your top speed for the next 45 seconds
- Continue to alternate 45-seconds of intense activity with 45-second cooling-off periods.
Start your program with 6 high-intensity intervals, but if that seems impossible, make sure you pump it up to the max for at least 5 cycles (with 45-second cooling off periods in-between, of course.) Gradually, you can add additional intervals – up to 8 or 10.
If running is impossible for you, you can adapt the same interval pattern to cycling, the stationary bike, elliptical trainer, or any other physical activity. For instance, even if your fitness activity is simply taking a walk, add a few flights of stairs in the middle of your walk. Jumping rope is another higher-intensity activity you can use for interval training.
If you stick with this program 3–4 times per week, you’ll soon enjoy the results:
- You’ll be able to run faster and recover more quickly.
- You’ll build muscle. And,
- You’ll slash your risk of cardiovascular problems.
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