High-Intensity Training Increases Exercise Performance

Summary
Canadian researchers performed a study to demonstrate the effects of high-intensity interval training (HIT) of shorter durations with less intense exercise in between. This study helped understand the molecular activity in skeletal muscles when subjected to immense stress (while exercising).  It was found that the HIT program, though having lesser periods of exercise, improved the exercise performance and also the overall activity and functioning of the muscles. The authors mention that, “…high-intensity interval training (HIT) induces numerous physiological adaptations that resemble traditional endurance training despite a low exercise volume.”

Introduction
Endurance exercises are prolonged sessions of highly concentrated, high volume (multiple repetitions) exercises. It is known that endurance exercise training induces numerous adaptations in muscles.  These adaptations are very significant. It has been proven both scientifically and clinically that physical activity is linked with improved health and reduced risk for obesity and diabetes. Researchers wanted to find out if HIT, which has shorter, low-volume exercises, has similar effects on skeletal muscle and exercise capacity. If it did, then one could have the benefit of endurance exercises in shorter sessions. “Given that ‘lack of time’ is the most commonly cited barrier to performing regular exercise in a variety of populations…low-volume HIT may represent an alternative to endurance training to improve metabolic health and reduce the risk for chronic diseases.”

Methodology
•    This study was conducted on seven men. They had to exercise on an “exercise bike” and the difficulty in pedaling was gradually increased. They pedaled intensely for a minute followed by slower pedaling for nearly two minutes.
•    Samples of muscle were taken from these men before and after the test. The entire test lasted for two weeks and each exercise session (three times a week) took 20 minutes.
•    The muscle was analyzed for chemicals that would indicate the total activity of the muscles and help understand the mechanisms.

Results
•    The time taken to complete the pedaling exercises increased by about 10 percent after an exercise session.
•    The muscle chemicals showed an increase in content as well as activity after the HIT session.
•    Lesser duration of intense exercise is a potent stimulus for increasing muscle capacity and improving exercise performance.
•    Increases of specific chemicals in the muscle have been key factors to make clear the mechanism of this type of exercise.

Next steps
Endurance exercises have been proven to be beneficial to people with diabetes and obesity. The authors suggest that more research should be performed to assess whether HIT could improve the health status of people with the same disorders. If proven, HIT could be more patient-friendly given the lesser duration each session.

Conclusion
From this study, it has been proven scientifically that HIT is very effective. It is seen to increase exercise performance and enhance muscle activity by generating specific muscle chemicals that increase the effectiveness of the workout. Since “no time” is the most frequent excuse to skip daily exercising, an intense exercise program with very less duration, similar to the one employed in this study, may be a potent, practical and time-efficient exercise strategy. Hence, young adults and the middle-aged could train accordingly to improve their muscle performance as well as stay healthy. Shorter duration of exercise could make it more exciting and appealing.

For More Information:
A Practical Model of High-Intensity Interval Training Improves Muscle Metabolic Capacity
Publication Journal: The Journal of Physiology, January 2010
By Jonathan P. Little, Adeel Safdar; McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada

*FYI Living Lab Reports Are Summaries of the Original Research.
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