Health Benefits of Brief, High-Intensity Exercise

Our bodies require regular physical activity along with other positive lifestyle choices - such as consuming a nutritious and natural diet, indulging in low to moderate alcohol consumption and not smoking - to remain healthy and fit. In fact, the question of what is the right type of exercise and how much exercise is necessary for health have become topics of fierce debate, even entering the realms of public policy.

Health experts now believe that everyone's daily schedule should be made to include physical activity regardless of how busy they might be. According to a recent study published by the Harvard School of Public Health, more than 60% of US adults are physically inactive on a regular basis, while 25% are not active at all. To reverse this trend, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the American College of Sports Medicine have recently issued a new recommendation: "Every US adult should accumulate 30 minutes or more of moderate-intensity physical activity on most, preferably all, days of the week."

Physical inactivity is a major risk factor for heart disease. It is linked to cardiovascular mortality and increases the likelihood of adverse health conditions including obesity, high blood pressure (BP) and diabetes, along with raising triglycerides and lowering ?good' HDL cholesterol. On the positive side, even moderately intense physical activity - such as walking for pleasure, gardening, housework and recreational activities - when performed daily, can substantially lower the risk of heart disease and promote heart health. When you combine daily exercise with a resveratrol supplement you may greatly improve your cardiovascular health.

Regular physical activity lowers triglycerides and increases HDL cholesterol. It also counters the adverse effects of risk factors such as high BP, diabetes and obesity. Studies have clearly shown that people who become regularly physically active after having had a heart attack have better rates of survival and a better overall quality of life.

Heart attacks happen when at rest or during a period of very high cardiac output. A person may be lifting a heavy object, shoveling snow after months of inactivity or receive an unexpected emotional blow or bad news. In other words, the sudden increase in demand for cardiac output becomes greater than the heart's capacity to adapt at that moment. Exercising for long periods makes the heart more efficient, but not more adaptive - so endurance training may be the wrong type of exercise to prevent heart attacks.

This hypothesis is supported by the results of a study that looked at the effects of exercise on the cardiovascular health of middle-aged men. Participants who performed repeated short bouts of exercise reduced their heart disease risk by 100% more than those who performed long duration exercise. Interestingly, the risk of coronary artery disease was not decreased by exercise duration, but by the amount of energy expended by the participants. The more energy expended, the lower the risk.

In general, health professionals agree that performing several exercise sessions just for a few minutes every day and taking daily heart supplements can be amazingly beneficial to your health. For example:

  • According to the American Journal of Sports Medicine, more fat and triglycerides are efficiently metabolized by taking a short walk after meals;
  • Short exercise periods are very effective in removing inches from your waistline and hips, and in reducing high BP;?
  • Exercise bouts as short as 6 minutes increase overall heart health just as well as sessions of 30 minutes or more;
  • Short bursts of physical activity can help smokers resist their tobacco cravings.

All this is great news for people who have incredibly busy schedules, since the duration of exercise is not as important as the intensity. In fact, some experts believe that you could cut your workout periods from 1-2 hours a day, 3 times a week to just 2 minutes every day and still achieve the same results - hard though it may be to believe.

Short bouts of high-intensity exercise means that blood sugar is used more efficiently, fat is burned more quickly and performance ability is boosted rapidly. Getting enough rest and gradually increasing both the amount and intensity of exercise are critical aspects of this approach to heart health. Short bursts of intense exercise demand more oxygen. The heart adapts by increasing both its heart rate and the amount of blood it can pump in one beat. This increases pumping power and makes the heart stronger.

According to a 2008 study, short bursts of high intensity sprints can improve both the function and structure of arteries that deliver blood to the muscles and heart. Individuals who completed interval training using 30-second sprints 3 days a week showed the same benefits as those who completed between 40 to 60 minutes of moderate-intensity cycling 5 days a week.

In other words - brief, high-intensity forms of exercise may provide the same or better benefits to heart health as long-duration, moderate-intensity exercise. 


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