Gear up, throttle down for bursts of fitness

HIIT: Gear up, Throttle Down for Bursts of Fitness

By Edward M. Eveld
The Kansas City Star

Nicole Lindemann, a business owner, wife and mom, speaks the truth: “Basically, I’m like everyone else in the world, we’re not getting any younger or any better in shape.”

So, resolutionaries, time to bust a move. But how, exactly?

The 38-year-old Lindemann didn’t know that the American College of Sports Medicine named “high-intensity interval training” as the top global trend for 2014 when she signed up for just such an exercise class a few weeks ago.

That’s HIIT, or just say “hit.”

If the term brings anything to mind, it’s probably the image of those cabals of impossibly fit-looking folks sweating it out on TV commercials. They’re hawking such hard-core workouts as CrossFit and P90X, which are types of high-intensity training.

No doubt the popularity of these well-marketed programs shot HIIT to the top of the ACSM’s trend watch, accompanied with warnings from fitness experts that extreme regimens can be injury-inducing and “aren’t for everybody.”

There’s actually nothing new about intense interval training, which goes back at least to the 1930s and Fartlek, the famed Swedish program. And it can be done in a measured way that provides big exercise benefits without big injury risks, says Kri Chay, a certified trainer and owner of Urban HIIT FITT in Lee’s Summit.

The latest science backs him up on this. The central idea couldn’t be simpler: Go hard. Then go easier or rest. Repeat.

“It’s the notion of alternating relatively intense exercise with periods of recovery,” said Martin Gibala, a kinesiology professor at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, who has studied the topic for 10 years. “And it can be properly scaled for different levels of fitness.”

The benefits are impressive, Gibala said, and they can be achieved in about half the time of continuous moderate-intensity exercise. That’s a big deal because lack of time continues to be the No. 1 barrier people cite to getting regular exercise, he says.

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