Fitness: Sweat more, live longer, enjoy the bragging rights – Montreal Gazette

Posted: September 27, 2019 at 12:49 am

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Stepping up the pace of your walk or run a couple of times a week is one way to add intensity to your workout schedule.Peter McCabe / MONTREAL GAZETTE

Twenty years ago health advocates decided the only way to get more people exercising was to get rid of its no pain, no gain reputation. So instead of promoting the benefit of working up a good sweat, they started selling the value of light- and medium-intensity exercise. Suddenly activities like gardening and housework were part of the exercise mix.

Nowadays, tough workouts are back in style. High-intensity interval training (HIIT) is all the rage, with its pitch geared to the masses who claim that lack of time is the reason they dont exercise. Headlines boasting that health and fitness benefits can be gained in as little as five minutes of exercise a day are everywhere.

But, if improved health and better odds of living longer are your primary goals, theres no need to adopt a no pain, no gain attitude. The current recommendation of 150 minutes of moderate intensity exercise per week is more than enough to fulfill your goal. But can health and mortality risk be further improved if exercisers add more sweat-inducing workouts into their weekly routine?

Health experts already make accommodation for those who prefer to work out with more intensity, recommending just 75 minutes of vigorous exercise a week, which suggests that there is a baseline level of energy expenditure needed to produce improved health outcomes. What we dont know is whether swapping out some of those 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise for workouts of a higher intensity will result in even more reductions in mortality and a greater boost in overall health.

Using data from large British studies that spanned 1994 to 2011, a team of Australian researchers reviewed the exercise habits (frequency, duration, intensity and type of exercise) of 64,913 respondents, 44 per cent of them men and 56 per cent women. Their goal was to find out whether those who reported bouts of vigorous activity (intense enough to get people out of breath and make them sweat) realized greater health benefits than those whose physical activity was limited to moderate-intensive exercise (that which produced a slight increase in heart rate).

Turns out that working up a sweat is worth the extra effort.

We found a 15-per-cent risk reduction (in all-cause mortality) in participants who achieved the recommended 150 minutes of MVPA (moderate-vigorous physical activity) and reported 30 per cent or more of vigorous activity, reported the researchers.

If the idea of a vigorous workout makes you nervous, theres nothing in this study that suggests you need to take your workout into the zone where discomfort meets pain. Instead, try pushing yourself until it takes effort to sustain the intensity. Thats a vigorous workout. And you dont need to spend your whole workout in that zone. Start with one-minute bouts of extra effort and then take it down a notch or two to a more comfortable pace. The trick is to slowly work up to the point where you feel capable of sustaining a workout that pushes your physical limits.

But dont just do it for the boost in health and longevity. There are more rewards to finding that extra gear than just upping the odds of living longer. Confidence grows as you successfully challenge yourself. And once you become more confident in your ability to test your physical limits, youll feel more comfortable trying new workouts, experimenting with different intensities and setting new goals. Not to mention the fact that those short, but intense, workouts that are all the rage, are now firmly within your grasp.

The other interesting finding in the Australian study is that the people most likely to log higher intensity workouts tended to be younger males, which is disappointing as there should be no gender or age limit to vigorous workouts. Stepping up the pace of your walk or run, adding speedy intervals to your bike workout, hopping on the rowing machine at the gym for a quick 2,000 metre workout a couple of times a week are all simple ways to add intensity to your workout schedule.

Remember, you dont need to huff and puff your way through every workout, or for a whole workout. The goal is to boost intensity so that it compiles at least 30 per cent of your weekly exercise volume.

For me that means one shorter, faster run and one HIIT class a week, both of which take me well out of my comfort zone. And while I admit that both workouts arent always met with enthusiasm, they never fail to provide a measure of post-workout satisfaction that is unmatched by my other workouts.

So go ahead a push yourself a little, and not just for the promised boost in health benefits, but also for the boost in satisfaction that goes along with it.

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Fitness: Sweat more, live longer, enjoy the bragging rights - Montreal Gazette

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September 27th, 2019 at 12:49 am

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