Wednesday, May 25, 2011

The single best exercise

I thought that this was an interesting article.  The journalist asked what different experts considered to be the single best exercise.   The conclusion seems to be hill sprints or at least sprints up stairs. 

The approach seems promising, since most of us have minimal time to exercise each week. Gibala last month published a new study of H.I.T., requiring only a stationary bicycle and some degree of grit. In this modified version, you sprint for 60 seconds at a pace that feels unpleasant but sustainable, followed by 60 seconds of pedaling easily, then another 60-second sprint and recovery, 10 times in all. “There’s no particular reason why” H.I.T. shouldn’t be adaptable to almost any sport, Gibala said, as long as you adequately push yourself.

Of course, to be effective, H.I.T. must hurt. But a study published last month found that when a group of recreational runners practiced H.I.T. on the track, they enjoyed the workout more than a second group of runners who jogged continuously for 50 minutes. The H.I.T. runners, the study’s authors suspect, were less bored.

The only glaring inadequacy of H.I.T. is that it builds muscular strength less effectively than, say, the squat. But even that can be partially remedied, Gibala said: “Sprinting up stairs is a power workout and interval session simultaneously.”Meaning that running up steps just might be the single best exercise of all.

That is the view of Martin Gibala.  He is the guy who has been doing a lot of research recently on the imapct of interval training, generally finding that short sprints can have the same effects as endurance exercise and that you also do not need to be flat out in the sprints to get the benefits.

The full paper for that last one is here.


Tim said...

I'm not a skeptic, I'm someone new to this who's trying to understand the departure from "modern day" tradition.

My question is;
Will a paleo lifestyle that includes an HIT training regime deliver on the endurance/ strength/cardio/physiological requirements needed for long distance mountain running (say 60-100km where you may have accumulated assending in excess of 2500 - 4000+ meters often in 25degree C + conditions).
In a one time event sense, against the clock this is very demanding stuff.

And therefore I'm a little uncertain that HIT in particular can deliver...

john said...

If we're talking about the typical inactive person looking for a little improvement, kettlebell snatches are definitely best. But, it's a stupid question anyway. What one food is best to live on?...This kind of thing is near-pointless to talk about. Does not choosing walking mean I'm not allowed to walk anywhere?

Anonymous said...

Did some sprinting three weeks ago and got a sore knee out of it, I'm 49 years old and lucky to still have working knees, I'll stick with jogging thank you very much.

All my life not a hint of a knee problem then I had to go and listen to the "experts" and add sprinting to my routine, thanks for nothing.

Steven said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Steven said...

Agree that there is no single perfect exercise, but hill sprint intervals would be a good candidate. Body moves, shifts weight, uses glutes and hams, and great cardio. BTW, I do HIIT sprints and I'm 49.

Louise said...

HUGE fan of HIIT. Also, I don't think the point of the post is to say that once the most effective overall exercise is identified we should only do that. I think the point is to try and draw conclusions on our overall health regimens once we've identified what systems work best.

GT said...

Sprinting Anonymous from May 26th - it never occurred to you to maybe do your first few HIIT sessions using an exercise medium that maybe offered less risk of injury?

The FIRST THING that crossed the mind of The Lovely and I when we decided to do HIIT, was to try it on either an exercise bike or an elliptical - to reduce the risk of connective-tissue trauma from higher levels of impact stress.

And lemme tell you - HIIT on an elliptical is AWESOME. We do a 30sec hard, 90sec recovery, for 20 minutes... and nowadays if our HRs aren't above 100% of theoretical max then we feel like we've piked.

The Lovely (RHR 48) gets her HR to the 220s, and old me (46) gets to the 170s easily. it's not even necessary to go quite so hard, but it feels fantastic both during and after.

By the end of it we're both smashed, sweating profusely, and half an hour later we're blitzed by the endorphin rush (I get roughly the same buzz as three glasses of wine).

Give it another crack - jogging makes people look like concentration camp inmates, and causes oxidative stress.