February 29, 2012

Exercise in Quick Spurts

Exercise in Quick SpurtsHere’s an interesting article from FoxNews on 15 ways to improve your fitness. Let’s just talk about the first tip: exercise in quick spurts. More and more studies are showing the health benefits of exercising at high intensity for brief periods; frequently called high intensity interval training. Research is showing that such exercise can provide the same heart health benefits as moderate continuous aerobic training performed for 40-60 minutes.  Which would you rather do?  Give maximum or near maximum effort for a short period or moderate effort for an hour?

Some of our other posts have discussed the fitness and health benefits of high intensity interval training. See “Natural Metabolism Boosters“, “Boosting Nitric Oxide with Exercise“, and “To Burn Calories Try This Exercise Bike Workout“.

Nitric Oxide Benefits

Exercising in quick spurts has many other advantages that go beyond the savings in time. Short bursts of exercise have been shown increase nitric oxide levels better than standard aerobic exercises. As you may recall nitric oxide is a potent vasodilator. It relaxes blood vessels and improves blood flow.  Nitric oxide plays a big role in enhancing our immune system as well – so anything that improves nitric oxide levels is going to be a tremendous benefit to health.

Hormonal Benefits

Exercise in quick spurts will enhance hormone production. To achieve this you must get close to your maximal heart rate. Short burst activities will stimulate your body to release growth hormone and testosterone, both of which help maintain muscle mass, and therefore metabolism. The more muscle you have the more calories you burn making it easier to control your weight. Plus, the more muscle you have the more functional you will be, and maintaining muscle becomes more vital the older we get.

Metabolism Benefits

Another huge advantage of high intensity exercise (short bursts) is that it creates a higher excess post-exercise oxygen consumption, or EPOC. The higher the EPOC the more calories you will burn after exercise, that’s right – after exercise. With the usual aerobic routine your body’s metabolism will generally return to baseline within an hour after stopping exercise. With a higher EPOC your body will continue to burn calories from fat for several hours afterwards. That’s why some refer to EPOC as the after burn. 

If you exercise in quick spurts you can actually burn more calories during and after exercise than you would continuous aerobic exercise.

Heart Benefits

One last benefit exercise in quick spurts is that you better prepare your body, and especially your heart for fight or flight situations. Because you’re exercising close to your maximal heart rate your heart is better prepared for those unexpected physical and emotional stresses. This better protects your heart against abnormal heart rhythms and heart attacks that can occur from such stresses. But, if you are over 40 and /or have risk factors for heart disease be evaluated by your physician for embarking on high intensity interval training or short burst maximum effort exercises.

Exercise smarter, not longer. Exercise in quick spurts.

Also, see these related articles.

“4 Benefits of High Intensity Interval Training”

“High Intensity Interval Training: Short and Sweet”

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Dr. Joe Jacko


Dr. Joe is board certified in internal medicine and sports medicine with additional training in hormone replacement therapy and regenerative medicine. He has trained or practiced at leading institutions including the Hughston Clinic, Cooper Clinic, Steadman-Hawkins Clinic of the Carolinas, and Cenegenics. He currently practices in Columbus, Ohio. Read more about Dr. Joe Jacko

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