Can pushing yourself to the limit really be good for your health?
WE all want to be fitter and most of us hate exercise. So when advocates of high-intensity interval training (HIIT) started to claim that just three minutes per week of flat-out effort is sufficient to keep the body in shape, millions of us were ready to listen. The theory is a simple one: the more effort you put in, the less time you need to do it for. But can constantly pushing yourself to your physical limits really be safe?
A stream of studies suggest that short, sharp bursts of strenuous activity, interspersed with brief periods of rest, can be equally, if not more effective, in boosting health and fitness than an hour spent slogging away on the cross trainer or treadmill. One study by Professor jamie Timmons of Loughborough university showed performing just four 30-second, flat-out sprints on an exercise bike two or three times a week helped to reduce blood-sugar levels and offset type-2 diabetes as well as keep people trim.
These are the kind of findings that get gym dodgers excited - but it seems it's a mistake to view HIIT as an easy option. "It is not something that I would advocate if you don't have a strong exercise background," says John Brewer, Professor of Sport at the University of Bedfordshire. "HIIT is designed to be exhausting and is too demanding for the majority of people who just want to get fit.".
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