What is Burst Training, or High Intensity Interval Training?

The reality is we’re almost all busy. There’s only so much time. You’d love to get great fitness or health results, but only have so much time to do it.

Enter High Intensity Interval Training, aka Burst Training.

Fancy names, but what are they, and more importantly, how can they help you to hit your fitness or health goals faster?

Well burst training is exactly as it sounds…bursts of intense exercise, followed by a period of rest.

Same thing for H.I.I.T…intervals, or periods, or high intensity training, followed by periods of lower intensity exercise, or rest.

The amazing thing is that there is an accumulating body of evidence that shows that HIIT may get equal or even better fitness results as conventional, cardiovascular exercises, like jogging, but in a fraction of the time.

How does it work?

The theory behind High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) is that when you exercise with intensity, over a short duration, followed by rest, multiple times, it forces your body into significant positive healthy adaptation.

The main researcher on this topic is out of McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, Dr. Martin Gibala.

He became interested in this research 15 years ago, when hearing about how Roger Bannister trained to break the four-minute mile.

Roger Bannister was a medical student at the time, and had very little time to devote to training. He couldn’t find hours and hours per day to spend doing the traditional long-distance training routines popular then, and still popular now.

He had only 30 minutes over his lunch, so he did sprints of short duration around the track, at high speeds and intensity, followed by a few minutes rest. He then repeated this multiple times, so that his whole workout was done in less than 30 minutes, but his actual time running, was likely closer to only 10 MINUTES.

He then went on to break the four-minute mile, a barrier most scientists of the time thought was humanly impossible.

Is this only applicable to world-class athletes?

No. What I find so interesting about the research is how it can be used by you and me, regular people, to get great benefit.

In one study, researchers compared people that exercised 3x per week for 50 minutes jogging, so a total of 150 minutes per week, or 2.5 hours. They were compared to a group doing interval training where they exercised 3x per week also, but the total time spent exercising, or exerting themselves, was only 30 minutes total. 30 minutes of interval exercise versus 150 minutes of steady state/pace cardiovascular exercise.

What did the results show?

Both groups were almost IDENTICAL in the benefits they received from the exercise (in heart rate reduction, increased muscle mass, and VO2 max improvements), with the interval group showing a slightly increased benefit in a couple measurements.

Both groups improved significantly, with almost the same results. But the high intensity interval group spent only 20% of the time exercising that the endurance group did.

30 minutes per week total compared to 150 minutes per week!

Who likes those numbers?

We are all challenged with finite time…there’s only so much to go around, and if we can get the same or better results, in way less time, it might be worth thinking about.

So far, I’ve been mostly addressing the Interval part of HIIT, but not really talking about the High Intensity part. For these people to get such great results in so little time, it has to be intense. Pushing yourself, hard. This is for the absolute best results.

How can you use this research even if you’re not in great shape to start with? Or if you’re closer to 60 than to 20?

The same principles apply, which is one of the reasons I think this research is so compelling.

You can apply interval training to so many different types of exercise, even without the same intensity, and still get significant benefit.

If you walk, you can speed up between a couple light posts, then slow down a bit. Then speed up a bit again.

They did a study on just that, people going 10% faster/harder for 30 seconds, then slowing down 10% for a couple minutes, then speeding up again, and these people made significant health gains that the walkers going at the same pace all the time did not.

If you jog…just speed up periodically for 30-60 seconds, then slow down a bit, then speed up again, and do this four or five times.

If you have stairs in your building, take them, and maybe go a little faster than you normally would.

This is all interval training. Sure, there are better, more effective ways to do it, but to start with, for most of us, this would be a great first step.

Instead of having to have it all figured out in advance, and knowing all the science and perhaps the best way to do it, JUST START. When walking, walk a little faster for short bursts. Or do the stairs. Or however you can incorporate more intense intervals into your life, you will benefit.

If you’re looking for more information, or how to implement it, please feel free to contact us at our Toronto chiropractic office.

Have fun sprinting from here on out! Dr. Byron Mackay


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