Exercise Series – High Intensity Exercise

In this first article we are going to be looking at the science behind HIT, thats High Intensity exercise and finding out why it’s so in vogue (as opposed to slow burn activities such as walking, jogging and running).

A few weeks ago, BBC 2 aired a programme: Horizon: The Truth About Exercise (BBC2, 9pm).

It discussed the recent research into exercise and NEAT which is short for Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis, pretty much everything you do that isn’t sleeping or sitting in a chair.

The presenter Michael Mosley and two volunteers pulled on pairs of hi-tech underpants that measured every movement via a little microchip embedded in the fabric.

One of the volunteers, Stephanie, a waitress, who’s on her feet all day, came out top but there was a shock for Rob, an office worker, who came bottom (excuse the pun) despite balancing out his day in the office with regular evenings at the gym. The presenter found that he could burn an extra 500 calories a day just by fidgeting and taking the stairs.

It highlighted the importance of increasing NEAT, that is increasing our everyday activity levels, even if it means taking the stairs instead of the escalator (or walking up the escalator), standing on the tube instead of sitting or even walking faster than we would normally.

It also demonstrated the harm that prolonged sitting does. “It’s literally killing millions!” the presenter said.
“Many of us spend 12 hours a day in a chair. That’s 12 hours a day of not moving,” he says.

However, the programme then demonstrated how HIT, or High Intensity Training, can give the same benefits as two and half hours of exercise a week from just three 20-second bursts of High intensity exercise, three times a week.

After one month of Hit both insulin sensitivity and aerobic fitness were vastly improved (23% improvement in insulin sensitivity).

So we are going to explain more about why high intensity exercise is so beneficial.

Over the years, It has been widely thought that a greater net amount of fat is burned through lower to moderate intensity work, however most research only looked at benefits within the exercise period. Critically, the postexercise period was always  overlooked. Until recently, no distinction was ever made between during-exercise fat oxidation, total fat oxidation by the end of a 24-hr period, and most importantly, over a longer term of several weeks.

However recent studies have looked further at the post exercise period:

• In acute trials, fat oxidation during exercise tends to be higher in low-intensity treatments, but postexercise fat oxidation and/or energy expenditure tends to be higher in high-intensity treatments.

• In 24-hr trials, there is no difference in fat oxidation between the 2 types of exercise, pointing to a delayed rise in fat oxidation in the high-intensity groups which evens out the field.
• In long-term studies, both linear high-intensity and HIT training is superior to lower intensities on the whole for maintaining and/or increasing cardiovascular fitness & lean mass, and are at least as effective, and according to some research, far better at reducing bodyfat.

So the main message is GET MOVING.

Sitting at a desk all day is bad for overall health (cardiovascular, insulin levels and fat burning  – thermogenesis), let alone the fact that the spine needs to be moving regularly to keep healthy.  (12 hours sitting a day = back pain hence the demand for the Sitfits we sell – ask One of us about them).



BBC Horizon – The Truth about Exercise
Myths Under The Microscope Part 1: The Low Intensity Fat Burning Zone
By Alan Aragon  © 2006


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