High intensity exercise. It may seem a bit daunting or even overwhelming. Especially if you haven’t exercised in awhile or believe that you are “too out of shape or no longer in your prime” to be exercising at higher intensities. I have to argue that the benefits of this kind of exercise are too great to ignore! So I encourage you to open your mind and find a personal trainer if you are concerned about moving towards high intensity exercise safely.
Ready to learn some cool things about your body?
What is High Intensity Exercise?
First, lets explore what can be considered high intensity exercise; I think you might be surprised!
High intensity exercise includes these three key elements:
- any exercise that uses many of your muscle groups together
- is physically demanding
- is done at almost your max heart rate
So this could be running sprints on the treadmill or a cycle class where you are doing intervals of higher and lower intensity. This could also include resistance training (strength training), explosively moving heavy objects like kettle bells or medicine balls, running hills, circuit training/interval training (a favorite of mine), plyometric exercises and of course one of my favorite exercises of all time, the burpee!!
The important take away is that high intensity is different for everyone. It’s working at (almost) YOUR max heart rate moving your body using lots of different muscles. Therefore, I think that high intensity exercise can in fact be done by just about anyone. Of course you should always be cleared by your doctor to perform this type of exercise. A good rule of thumb is that if you are on any kind of medication or have any know health issues, ask your doctor.
What are the Benefits of High Intensity Exercise?
So what are the benefits, and why is this important to you?
It’s been shown that high intensity exercise not only helps you build muscle, it can help you preserve muscle as you age. It’s been shown that as we age, we start to lose muscle mass, and between the ages of 25 and 65 we can lose on average 20 pounds of lean muscle.
Remember that muscle helps keep us metabolically active and helps burn calories. What does this mean? Well it means that our metabolism slows down as we lose muscle mass if it’s not preserved.
So maybe you do a daily walk or even jog regularly. But is that enough? Research shows that this “steady state” exercise, where you exercise at the same constant pace throughout the entire duration of the exercise, does not build or help preserve lean muscle mass like high intensity exercise does. This means, if you run/walk you should add in some higher intensity days or start running/quick walking some hills as part of your regular weekly program. Better yet, add in some resistance training!
Excess Post-Exercise Oxygen Consumption (Say What?)
Now lets move onto my favorite reason to do high intensity exercise – it’s called EPOC or excess post-exercise oxygen consumption. The easiest way I can explain this is gasping for air even though you are done exercising. Although you may not be literally gasping for air after a few minutes, EPOC can be elevated for hours after high intensity exercise. This may not sound all that fun, but why should you care? This period of excess post-exercise oxygen consumption also requires an extra energy demand on the body, since oxygen consumption and energy utilization are directly correlated in the body. This excess need for oxygen helps you burn calories long after you are done exercising for the day. Burn baby burn!
How It All Works
Maybe you are wondering what causes the need for excess post-exercise oxygen consumption? When you first start exercising (even walking or running) the intensity of the exercise out paces the amount of oxygen being consumed by the body, causing an oxygen deficiency in the body. In activities like walking, jogging, running at a steady state. The body can quickly adapt and the period of oxygen deficiency is short. However, when performing high intensity activities, the body’s need for oxygen is greater than the oxygen that can be consumed, creating a large oxygen deficiency that needs to be made up later in the day.
So the difference?:
- After you finish steady state exercise, your body quickly restores the oxygen deficiency. So the majority of the calories you burned from that steady state exercise occur during the actual exercise itself.
- With high intensity exercise, this oxygen deficiency can be large. This means that for minutes or hours after exercise, your body will be replenishing that oxygen deficiency (burning more calories!). This means you are burning calories during the exercise, and after the exercise.
High intensity exercise uses more total energy per minute since it requires a lot of muscles at once. This leads to more energy used within the hours after exercise, and results in similar if not greater reduction in fat loss as steady state cardio done for much longer periods of time.
If you just cant wait and you want to try high intensity exercise now, check out a few of my favorite high intensity interval workouts as well as the beginners series on weight training!
7 Days of Sweat (meal plan and workout!)
What About You?
- Do you do high intensity training?
- Whats your favorite way to get your heart rate up?
- Did you now about EPOC?