Changes in exercise intensity good for body

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My favorite fitness topic continues to be the benefit of short, efficient and diverse workouts.

This topic appeals to me because exercising can be daunting to begin with. If you feel like you have to spend hours at the gym, it’s even harder to get in the car to go.

I think the biggest weight-loss letdowns are those that occur with runners. I’ve heard from a few runners that they are not seeing the results they should even though they’re literally trying to run their bums off.

Here are common pitfalls people “run into” when trying to achieve weight loss, according to an article by fitness expert and author Adam Bornstein:

“Traditional ‘steady state’ running falls short on a long-term weight-loss plan” when your workout is always the same, he says.

A 45-minute run on the treadmill at a consistent pace that’s not near sprint speed helps shed weight, but only initially, he adds, citing University of Tampa research. “Subjects lost a few pounds during the first week and then kaput!”

He notes that “one of the most important variables with any type of exercise — cardio or other — is intensity.”

Bornstein also refers to University of Western Ontario research that compared short but intense exercise to long, less-intense cardio. One group performed four to six 30-second sprints while the other group did cardio for 30 to 60 minutes. The results were nothing short of amazing.

“Despite exercising for a fraction of the time, those in the sprint category burned more than twice as much body fat,” he says. “That’s because the process of sprinting causes similar internal changes to your body as those that occur during weight training.

The body must replenish energy, convert lactic acid produced during exercise into glucose, and restore blood hormone levels after an intense workout.

“All of those processes mean your bodywork harder and burns more fat — both of which don’t happen during steady-state aerobics,” he says.

Furthermore, citing the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, Bornstein writes that “If you’re a lover of slower, longer duration cardio, I have some bad news: Endurance’ running and walking (longer duration, lower intensity) impairs strength and muscle growth.”

There is more to be said regarding this. Long duration, like an hour or so, is when this can occur. It’s especially true with runners who are consistently completing cardio at a stagnant pace for a long period of time.

This doesn’t mean you have to sprint all the time, but it does mean you might change things up here and there. Push yourself for 30 seconds or so and rest instead of always going at a regimented pace.

Something to consider if you are watching a TV show, say while you’re on the elliptical, is to sprint during the commercials then slow down during your program. If your workout is shorter due to pushing super hard, that’s OK. In fact, it’s actually great!

Remember, something is always better than nothing. Don’t beat yourself up if you can’t exercise for an hour. Also don’t make that your excuse for not exercising.

I may have used the excuse myself in the past, “I only have a half an hour so I can’t work out.” Totally not the case! Use the short period of time as the time to push yourself.

Alyssa Latham is director of Health Seeker Initiatives at the Walla Walla YMCA. She can be reached at alatham@wwymca.org.

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