Ignore the Trend... Follow My Common Sense

In the office, they call me "the codger."

It's meant in good humor, but as with most jokes, it carries a bit of truth...

Most of my Stansberry Research co-workers are much younger than I am. I think I'm at least twice the average age of the employees in our Baltimore office.

Despite being a codger, I'm regularly ahead of the latest health trends.

But I hate the word "trends"... especially when what's considered the latest and greatest fitness advice is the same common-sense wisdom I've repeated for years.

Recently, I saw a new list touting the best fitness trends of 2019. And on it – practical advice I've written about for years.

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The list comes from a survey of members of the American College of Sports Medicine. On that list are things like yoga and working out with friends (you can see some of our articles on these here and here).

Also on the list was "Exercise is Medicine," a new program that's been getting attention. It focuses on urging doctors to prescribe movement as part of a patient's treatment program. I've said this for years – movement is the best way to combat most medical ailments... period.

Also on the list is a form of exercise I've recommended every year, even before it started getting all the attention in health and wellness magazines. High-intensity interval training (HIIT) involves short bursts of intense exercise along with longer periods of moderate exercise within the same workout.

HIIT made it to the No. 3 trend of 2019, but we think it's a program everyone should try. The science behind it is solid and it's a great way to get your movement in without spending too much of your time.

Just like the name suggests, HIIT is a workout strategy where you mix short, intense bursts of effort with longer recovery periods. It's intense but considered safe for anyone, even older folks and people just starting with regular exercise.

Studies show HIIT is more efficient than regular aerobic exercise. It improves your body's ability to burn fat and calories. A 12- to 15-minute HIIT workout is equivalent to an hour of steady aerobic exercise.

The most-studied HIIT regimen is something called the Wingate test. In the Wingate, the participant exercises at an "all-out" level of exertion for 30 seconds, then rests for about four minutes. This cycle repeats four to six times, so that the total exertion time is only two to three minutes. Participants complete this workout three times a week.

That's only nine minutes per week of intense exertion, compared with 150 minutes of aerobics or 16 hours of walking. And according to additional research, reducing the intensity still provides benefits for people with somewhat limited mobility.

HIIT can benefit most people, even those with cardiovascular disease and diabetes. The key is to start at lower levels and build up slowly.

HIIT provides many great health benefits, including:

  • Improves cardiovascular health (including lowering blood pressure), 
  • Builds muscle tissue,
  • Increases metabolism (which helps generate body heat),
  • Increases gastrointestinal transit speed (which reduces colon cancer risk),
  • Eases arthritis, 
  • Improves bone mineral density,
  • And reduces lower back pain.

I realize you might think HIIT is too difficult – after all, anything with "intensity" in the name sounds intimidating. So if you're apprehensive, I'd recommend fast walking for your first HIIT.

It's exactly like it sounds... You walk a few minutes to warm up, then walk fast for three minutes, then slow to a crawl, then fast again. You can then work your way up to more difficult exercises.

Like any exercise program, HIIT does carry risks, especially if you're starting from a sedentary lifestyle. An Ironman athlete we spoke with (who uses HIIT for his training) suggested doing HIIT once or twice a week. This gives your body time to recover so you can avoid injury. However, HIIT may not be for everyone. Research shows it's safe, but you should always discuss your exercise plans with your doctor.

Movement, including exercise, is incredibly important to your health. The sooner you start, the better. So do what I do and try a HIIT program once or twice a week. It's not just some passing fad or exciting new trend – it's scientifically backed routines that will benefit your health without the time commitment. If you've already started it based on my past issues, we'd love to hear about it. Drop us a line at [email protected].

What We're Reading...

Here's to our health, wealth, and a great retirement,

Dr. David Eifrig and the Health & Wealth Bulletin Research Team
January 17, 2019