For decades now, fitness training and aerobic training pushes for hitting your “fat burning” zone and staying there. But what if this has been all wrong?
I believe that the human body was much more attuned for short burst aerobic activity rather than the typical 45+ minutes of continuous exercise. If you think about it– name an animal that we could either chase or would chase us for 40-45-50 minutes and we’d stand a chance of outrunning or catching. You are not going to outrun a saber tooth tiger for 40 minutes, nor are we are going to chase down an antelope for 40 minutes. I just don’t think that, from an evolutionary standpoint, our bodies were designed for long term aerobic activity.
The medical research increasingly favors and supports short-burst aerobic type activities. I can envision us in a hunter-gatherer society, hiding out in a bush. All of a sudden having to jump out and attack an animal, or throw our spear or a rock at whatever we happen to be trying to hunt at that time. I think that our bodies are well attuned to these types of actions.
We also know from a cardiovascular standpoint that, the faster our heart rate comes back down to normal after exertion, the better our cardiovascular health. Thus, the idea of short-burst aerobic type activity really strengthens this association.
Several recent studies have confirmed the benefits of short burst aerobic activity on aspects of our health:
- A single session of short burst aerobic exercise improved diabetics’ blood sugar.
- 15 minutes of burst exercise in 2 weeks improved insulin levels by 23%.
- A single bout of short burst aerobic exercise lowered blood sugar by 36%.
Ok. But the devil’s advocates out there would point out that maybe this is good for someone who is otherwise healthy, but what about….say…someone with chronic heart failure?
Surely short burst aerobic exercise will finish off these patients, right?
Dead wrong. Or rather, anti-dead wrong.
In this particular study, researchers compared two groups of patients who had chronic heart failure:
- The interval exercise group 3 sessions of 12 repetitions of 30 seconds of exercise at very high intensity, followed by 60 seconds of complete rest
- The continual exercise group performed 45 minutes of aerobic exercise
I think in our minds we would be concerned that anyone with chronic cardiac problems should NEVER do high intensity aerobic workouts, and certainly this can’t be better for them than the standard 45 minutes on the treadmill. Unless, of course, they drop to death from boredom before the 45 minutes are over…
What did they find? The burst interval group improved more in every parameter, including:
- Peak oxygen consumption (Vo2peak)
- The duration of the exercise test
- The oxygen pulse
- Oxygen consumption at the first ventilator threshold (VT1)
- The distance walked during the 6 minute walk test
In contrast, the constant aerobic exercise group only increased the time at the VT1 and the distance performed at the 6 minute walk test.
Pretty clear difference.
So maybe it’s time to evaluate your aerobic exercise routine and make these two changes:
- Make sure you HAVE an aerobic program. This can be ANYTHING from walking to swimming to jump roping to biking.
- Switch to a short burst type rhythm. 30 seconds as fast as you can go with a minute break. Rinse and repeat 6-10 times.
So what is YOUR favorite type of aerobic fitness activity?