Tuesday, February 3, 2009

"No Pain, No Gain" After All

For years, I was one among many pear-shaped denizens of my gym, forlornly marking time on our cardio machines without much result. We'd been told that by working out just below the pain point, diligently maintaining heart rate in the proper range, and grinding out 30 minute sessions three or four times per week, week after week, health and weight would take care of themselves. But recent research indicates that the old, unfashionable "no pain no gain" saw may in fact still apply.

Fast, hard sprinting has been shown to be the most efficient exercise for cardiovascular health, for weight loss, and for athletic performance. That's why athletes have, some time ago, shifted to high-intensity interval training...and gym rats like me are following suit.

The first link, above, points to a brand new study demonstrating that just just seven minutes per week(!) of flat-out sprinting can achieve "a sizable fraction of the cardiovascular benefits from the recommended seven-hour-per-week aerobic exercise." The weight loss link points to an older study comparing interval training to more traditional endurance training. In that study, the duration of both types of exercise were more or less equal, and the interval training brought tremendously better results. But I'd bet anything that if you halved the duration of the interval training, much of that benefit would be retained.

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