How to improve health and fitness in just 6 minutes a day.
Time can often be a barrier that stops people taking the first step to improving their fitness. But what if there was something simple you could do for 6 minutes a day, a couple of times a week, or even better every day, that’s been proven to significantly boost several markers of health and fitness. Good news, it exists, and it called High Intensity Training (H.I.T) and its effects on the body are powerful.
How it works
To improve any aspect of fitness you must take the body past the threshold of what it’s used to doing, and it will adapt accordingly to that stress. In strength training the adaptation is stronger muscles, in stretching its more flexible muscles and as your about to find out in HIT its numerous. HIT training lets you take your body past your usual threshold of fitness in a controlled way and the great news is the amount of time you spend doing it doesn’t have to be long to get the benefit.Here’s are just some of them.
Increases lactate threshold
Have you ever played a sport or ran a race, and you felt your muscles turn heavy with a burning sensation? Well, what you just experienced was the build-up of lactate acid in your muscle, which is a waste product of when we train hard. Regular HIT training will reduce the build-up of lactate acid in the body and improve its ability to deal with it. Which means you’ll be able to work the muscles harder and longer without getting that burning sensation that makes you stop.
Improves bodies sensitivity to insulin
When we do HIT training your predominately working fast twitch muscle fibres and when we enhance those muscle fibres, we improve our bodies ability to use glucose up in the blood which in turn makes us more sensitive to insulin that leads to even greater removal of glucose from the blood in the long-term. As too much glucose in the blood causes inflammation this is great news for reducing inflammation in the body. More glucose making it way into the muscle also reduces the likelihood of storing it as body fat.
Reduces free radical damage and inflammation
Free radicals cause damage to our bodies at cellular levels, think of them as little molecular bombs that cause tiny explosions, in turn damaging our cells. The majority of free radical are produced when we produce too much energy in the mitochondrias of our cells. HIT allows us to use up this excess energy and also improves the health of our energy producing mitochondrias which in turn leads to less inflammation.
Increases the strength and quality of the muscle
The high intensity nature of HIT stimulates that fast twitch muscle fibres which have the largest capacity for growth. But there’s even more going on at the cellular level. Inside each muscle cell are the energy producing organelles called “mitochondria” and these structures produce all the cells energy. We know as we age, we lose mitochondria, leading to muscle wasting diseases like sarcopenia, so less mitochondria means less energy to grow muscle. That great news is that HIT can increase the number of mitochondria thus improving the energy available for the muscle to grow and function.
Increases bone density
Exercise is stress on the body, and what does the body do when it receives just the right amount of stress? It adapts. The high intensity nature of HIT training has been found to stress the bones enough to cause them to adapt by remodelling more bonce cell, which allows them to be stronger and more resilient.
Increases post workout fat burn
Muscle is one of the main means of burning energy in the body. If you can increase muscles ability to burn energy you can increase fat loss. As mentioned previously HIT training causes the muscle to increase the number and efficiency of the energy producing structure in the muscles cells called mitochondria. Think of fat as coal and the mitochondria as furnaces. The more furnaces you have the faster the rate you can burn through your coal reserves. Another bonus is that HIT also allows the muscle to take up more glucose leaving less to be stored as body fat.
Improves cardiovascular system
Finally, one of the main effect of HIT training is its ability to improve the health and function of the cardiovascular system. Studies have shown that in heart, blood, and lung function through improvements in heart rates, vo2 max, and blood pressure after HIT training.
So how do you perform HIT training? It’s incredibly simple. I ask clients to perform the following on their favourite piece of CV kit:
• 6 mins of total work.
• 1 min performed at about 60% of their maximum effort
• 30 secs at 85-90% of their maximum effort.
• Repeat until you’ve performed a total fo 4 sets.
It’s that simple. I normally get clients to it on a stationary bike, but it can also be performed on a treadmill, rower, x trainer. Don’t like doing CV indoors? Well just go outside for a run instead, which probably has even more benefit in the sunshine. Once you feel your fitness levels improve add annother couple of sets on.
You get so much back for just 6 mins off effort with HIT training is incredible, and for me an absolute no brainer for people wanting to improve health and fitness fast while being time efficient. If you couple it with time restricted eating, its also an incredibly powerful fat loss too (see our article on time restricted eating”.
As always be careful when performing intense exercise as detailed above. Warm up, take it a bit easier the first few times you do it, and listen to your body. If you have any health-related concerns like heart problems, breathing problems, or dizziness, talk to your doctor first. Hope you give it a go.
Good luck! Martin