Short Exercise Burns 9X More Fat

Long gym hours increase heart risks by 50%

short Exercise healthy living magazine

short Exercise healthy living magazine

High intensity exercise can help one live longer but marathons can raise heart attack risk—that according to a Harvard study comparing vigorous and light exercise. Those who performed more vigorous exercise had a lower risk of death than those who performed less vigorous exercise. Developed in the 1960s by Dr Per Asrand, the term fartlek, meaning “speed play,” described this type of exercise as used by the Swedes who had runners going all out for about 30 seconds then slowing down but not stopping. The major impacts of short burst training (SBT) are that it raises levels of human growth hormone, burns more calories, taps the strength of large muscle fibers and develops more muscle and strength and greater fitness in less time. Animals who are strong and powerful do not run long distances but maintain their power and strength by using short bursts of energy to capture their next meal or to use that burst of energy to escape from becoming some other animal’s next meal. When I talk to people who tell me that they are training for a long run or skipping out on family events to spend hours in the gym, I have to wonder if they’ll really find all that effort worthwhile.

Human Metamorphosis

At one time in my teens and early twenties, at 5’7” tall, my weight ballooned to 250 pounds. When I was in the Marine Corps, I was encouraged (“forced” is a better word) to work out. At that point, my daily exercise routine started with the obstacle course and a regimen of 10-mile runs.

I was fortunate that a captain mentored me in weight lifting and physical exercise and introduced me to my first health food store in Oceanside, California. The lifestyle that I adopted then eventually brought me to where I am today—healthy, at an appropriate weight. It changed my whole life.

Of course, when I first started a workout program, my focus was on lifting in order to get stronger but not necessarily for longevity. Over the years, I tried to continue an exercise program of running for cardiovascular conditioning and additional weight lifting. I was doing about one to one and a half hours three to four times a week.

It was too time consuming. With my busy schedule of running a business, having a family and extensive travel, I found that I just could not afford the time I was devoting to working out. I’m sure that’s a familiar situation for many people.

I started searching for a less time-intensive but still effective form of exercise. I wanted a good cardiovascular workout and a way to keep my 400-plus muscles (especially my heart) in shape. I ran across information on kettle bell training. If you haven’t ever seen a kettle bell, it looks like a cannonball with a handle and weighs anywhere from 5 to 106 pounds.

Additionally, I kept seeing mention of an exercise program designed by Dr Al Sears called PACE. I was also made aware of it by Jonathan Wright, MD, a Harvardtrained physician who uses dietary supplements and other integrative methods in his practice.

Dr Sears’ work has shown the importance of intensity rather than duration. He documented that a short workout routine with emphasis on high intensity and ample rest in between could accomplish more than a long, slow paced form of exercise. Researchers at Laval University in Quebec divided participants into two groups, a long duration exercise group and an interval short-term exercise group. They had the long duration group cycle up to 45 minutes without interruption. The short-term interval group cycled in numerous short bursts of 15-90 seconds while resting in between. The long duration group burned twice as many calories, so you would assume they would burn the most fat. However, when the researchers recorded the subjects’ body composition measurements, the interval group showed it lost the most. In fact, the interval group lost nine times more fat than the endurance group for every calorie burned.

In another finding from the large Harvard Health Professionals Follow-Up Study, researchers followed over 7,000 people. They found that the key to exercise is not length or endurance. It’s intensity. The more energy people exerted, the lower their risk of heart disease.

Kettle Intensity

I have developed my own 12-20 minute routine consisting of kettle bell swings and stationary recumbent bike about two to three times a week. I start off with either a 44 or 53 pound kettle bell and do a swing 30-35 times, which takes about 20-30 seconds and is like running 200 meters as fast as you can. I then do a two minute “rest” following the intense burst of activity. My two minutes of rest is active rest of pedaling (usually at the lowest level) on a recumbent bike. I do this to provide continued circulation of the blood and facilitate removal of lactic acid from the muscles.

Depending on the level of fitness, one can start off with a 5 pound kettle bell or whatever is most suitable. Women will find the 5 or 10 pound kettle bell more than enough. Men may want to use 10 or 20 pounds.

You want to continue doing the swing until you can no longer breathe and then take a two minute rest. Repeat this sequence five or six times or as long as it takes to do in a period of 12-20 minutes. Some people do the kettle bell swing for 30- 35 swings, and then for their rest period they jump rope for two minutes. I can’t jump rope so I use the recumbent bike as an active rest period. It is never a good idea to sit down for your rest period. You want to continue moving or walking around or bouncing on your feet. No matter what your day is like, I think everyone can find 12-20 minutes.

In one of Dr Sears’ cases, he worked with a woman who started off walking for 45 seconds and then rested two minutes and walked an additional 45 seconds and continued this process. Altogether she lost over 60 pounds and was in much better health and had nice muscle tone. The whole idea is to exercise for 20-30 seconds at your highest level of intensity.

There’s nothing wrong with running; I just don’t advocate marathons. The body takes a huge pounding in these sessions, putting tremendous pressure on joints and connective tissue, tearing muscle, pushing the cardio system to the limit—and for what? How many people actually enjoy that level of highly risky, unnecessary physical trauma? Distance or marathon running creates an inflammatory storm in the body that is identical to the early symptoms of heart disease. In his research Dr Sears notes one study in particular which found that 35% of marathoners had significant levels of arterial plaque compared to just 22% of non-marathon runners. That’s an increased risk of over 50%. And here again, Dr Sears points to the Harvard Health Professionals Follow-Up Study, which found the key to lowering heart disease risk is the intensity of the exercise, not repetition, endurance and duration.

comments powered by Disqus