Cooler temps got you hanging indoors, and binge-watching your favorite shows? That’s cool, but whenever you settle in for a marathon, you may want to consider doing a little physical activity in front of the tube. Here’s why: New research presented at a meeting of the American Heart Association suggests that the more time you spend watching TV, the greater your risk of blood clots (even if you get the recommended amount of exercise each week). Yikes!
But here’s the good news: It’s possible to squeeze in a workout without ever hitting pause. In the video above, Chelsea Potter, an instructor at Solace in New York City, demonstrates a sneaky set of calorie-crushing intervals and feel-good stretches you can do right in your living room. “The intervals keep your heart rate up so you burn more calories, while the stretching will help keep delayed-onset muscle soreness, as well as potential injuries, away, ” she explains.
Potter recommends performing the stretches during the show, and then cranking things up a notch with the 90-second intervals during commercials. We can guarantee you’ll feel a whole lot better after your next bingefest.
Can’t take your eyes off the screen? Don’t worry. You can do these six simple poses as the plot unfolds. Aim to hold each for 90 seconds.
Sit tall with knees bent and feet flat on floor. Place hands at sides; palms face back. Walk hands back until torso is at a slight angle. Cross right ankle over left knee, and pull left leg into towards body. Repeat with opposite leg.
Sit tall with shoulders relaxed, knees bent and soles of feet touching; place hands on feet. Tighten abs and then fold forward slowly. Hold; return to start. For an even greater stretch, lower elbows to inner thighs and push down on thighs.
Start in upward-facing dog, keeping legs on floor. Step right foot to outside of right hand, coming into a low lunge, and hold. Bring left foot back to plank and then repeat movement on opposite side. Want a deeper stretch? Lower down to forearms.
Lie facedown with elbows bent and palms at sides. Push into hands, straightening arms. Push into the tops of feet to lift thighs. Hold, and then release.
Sit tall with legs bent, feet flat on floor and hands next to hips; palms face back. Slowly walk hands backward as far as possible so that torso begins lowering down toward floor, and hold. Walk hands back in to return to start.
Sit tall with legs crossed. Grab hand towel between hands, pulling until taut. Raise arms over head, and then lower until towel is behind head. Pull towel to right so right arm is straight and left arm forms a 90-degree angle. Pull towel to left to repeat motion. Continue alternating back and forth.
Now it’s time to really work. These three combos will get your heart pumping and that calorie furnace burning. Start with 2 reps of each exercise and increase in a ladder, going to 4 reps per exercise, 6 reps, and continuing for as many reps as possible for 90 seconds.
Stand with feet shoulder-width apart, chest high, abs drawn in, and hands clasped in front of chest or straight out with palms down. Once hips are slightly below parallel, jump up explosively, swinging arms behind you. Upon landing, squat back down, and repeat.
Squat down and place hands on floor in front of you. Jump feet out so that you’re now in a plank. Jump feet back in towards hands. As you rise to stand, jump up explosively. Make it harder: add in a pushup after the plank.
Lie faceup with knees bent, feet flat on floor, and hands lightly behind head. Press lower back into ground, pull abs in and lift head, shoulders, and upper back off of floor. Twist torso as you simultaneously bring left elbow and right knee in toward each other while straightening left leg. Draw right knee back in and immediately repeat the movement with the opposite side; continue alternating.
Lie faceup with legs and arms straight. Reach arms over head. Lift arms and legs slightly off of the floor. Engage abs, lift torso and legs as if trying to touch hands to toes. Lower back down; don’t let legs or arms touch ground. Repeat.
Start with feet hip-width apart. Step right foot forward about 2 feet and lower into a lunge, making sure knee does not go past ankle. Jump up, switching position of legs in the air, so that you land in a lunge with left foot forward. Continue alternating.
Towel Ski Jumps
Place a rolled-up towel on floor, standing to the left of it with feet together and hands on hips. Jump up and over the towel, landing lightly on the floor so that you are now standing to the right of the towel. Continue jumping over the towel as quickly as possible.
When you’re stuffed to the point of discomfort after an indulgent holiday dinner, you might be wondering what it’s going to take to feel like your healthy self again. Here, nutrition and fitness experts share advice to help you get back on track after overeating—without starving yourself or doing hours of cardio.
First things first: Stop beating yourself up!
“Feeling guilty doesn’t lead to healthier eating and is more often associated with perpetuating emotional and binge eating behaviors,” says Torey Jones Armul, RDN, National Spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. You can’t go backward: Tell yourself you’ll start making healthier decisions starting right now.
Go for a walk.
This can aid digestion and possibly help decrease the fat your body stores, says Marta Montenegro, exercise physiologist and nutrition specialist. One study showed that when subjects took a light walk after a high-fat meal, they decreased their post-meal triglyceride concentration (the type of fat your body stores to use for energy) by around 70 percent compared to the non-walking group.
Get leftovers out of sight.
Whether you encourage guests to take leftovers with them, or stick them in containers to store in your freezer, moving extra food out of sight and out of mind will help you return to your normal healthy eating routine over the next few days, Jones Armul says. “Portioning out leftover foods in single-serving containers prolongs the food’s shelf life, helps with portion control and slows down the urge to chow down on those tempting dishes,” she says.
Note the damage, but don’t let it define you.
If stepping on the scale the day after Thanksgiving will help you get back on track with a healthier eating mindset, then do it, but don’t assume the scale shows true weight gain. It may be up a few notches, but that just reflects water retention, says Molly Morgan, RD, author of Skinny-Size It. There are 3,500 calories in a pound, so to have actually gained three or four pounds, you would’ve had to consume more than 10,500 to 14,000 extra calories! Even though our experts and other sources estimate the average American might take in 2,000 to 4,500 calories over the course of Thanksgiving day eating, that still only adds up to about a pound at the most. “Increase your fluid intake for the next few days to help flush out the extra water,” Morgan says.
Improve your next meal.
If you overdid the calories at one meal, keep the next meal lighter, but still satisfying by filling it halfway with vegetables, says Erin Palinski-Wade, RD, CDE, author of Belly Fat Diet For Dummies . T hen fill out the remainder of the plate with lean protein options.
Track your calories for the next few days.
Record your food intake on a smartphone app (like Lose It! or MyFitnessPal) or with pen and paper for a couple of days to get back to your eating routine, suggests Morgan. One study showed that self-monitoring consistently during the holiday season helped the study participants minimize weight gain.
Calm your stressed system with yoga.
Your body is under stress after a big meal, says Montenegro. Yoga can help by activating the parasympathetic nervous system, the one that lowers blood pressure, heart rate, and relaxes the stomach nerves. Doing yoga has also been shown to increase the response of feel-good neurochemicals like serotonin and the oxytocin hormone, so you’ll feel happier, more relaxed, and ready to move on with your healthy goals after this particular overeating session. In one study, Iyengar style yoga helped reduce Irritable Bowel Syndrome symptoms, such as abdominal pain, fatigue, constipation, and other digestive issues.
Tack on a few more intense workouts.
Maximize calorie burn by doing moderate- to high-intensity exercises—they’ll increase your metabolism for 12 to 24 hours after you’re done working out, says Montenegro. Do 15 reps of each of squats, shoulder presses, lateral side raises, bent over rows, biceps curls, triceps extensions, side bends, pushups and leg raises. Then repeat the circuit one or two more times.
Focus on your food intake over the course of a week rather than day-to-day, suggests Palinski-Wade: “Don’t let one ‘bad’ meal or day define you.
Nuts have have a very well-deserved reputation as a health food. In addition to fiber and plant protein, they’re chock-full of good fat, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. But pecans are one nut healthy eaters tend to overlook. (I’m sure it doesn’t help that pecans star in a few indulgent desserts, like pecan pie and pralines.) The truth is, this delicious nut boasts some unique nutritional perks that are worth spotlighting. Here, three good reasons to eat more pecans—plus simple ways to enjoy them, all year long.
Pecans contain particularly potent antioxidants
Pecans are rich in polyphenol antioxidants, specifically flavonoids, which have been tied to heart benefits. In fact, the nuts have more than twice the flavonoid content found in almonds, cashews, and pistachios, and seven times the amount in walnuts. Compared to other nuts, pecans also have the highest levels of gamma-tocopherols, which is a form of vitamin E and another key antioxidant. Two separate studies have suggested that the increase in gamma-tocopherols levels from eating a pecan-rich diet helps prevent the oxidation of cholesterol. Oxidized cholesterol is a risk factor for heart disease. (Note: Both studies were funded in part by the National Pecan Shellers Association.)
They’re also rich in minerals
Pecans are an excellent source of thiamin and zinc, as well as manganese and copper. One ounce (about 19 halves) supplies 60% of the Daily Value (DV) for manganese, and 40% of the DV for copper. Manganese helps regulate blood sugar, and is needed for healthy bones. This mineral also helps form collagen, which gives skin its firmness and elasticity. Copper aids in iron absorption, and works with iron to help the body form red blood cells. It also supports immunity, and helps keep blood vessels, nerves, and bones healthy.
And they’re naturally sweet
One ounce of pecans contains just one gram of sugar. But compared to other nuts, pecans taste sweeter. That means they can help satisfy a sweet craving with no or less added sugar.
You can simply snack on a handful, or pair them with fruit (pecans go well with apples, pears, grapes, and kiwi). In the morning, try blending pecans into a smoothie; or add them to hot or cold cereal, oatmeal, a yogurt parfait, or muesli.
Pecans also add natural sweetness and crunch to savory dishes. Sprinkle them onto cooked veggies, whole grains, pulses, spaghetti squash, fish, chicken, tuna salad, or entrée salads. (Check out this recipe for Mixed Green Salad With Dried Plums and Toasted Pecans.) Or use chopped pecans as a garnish for hummus, soup, chili, stir-fries, and lettuce wraps.
For a superfood treat, dip pecan halves into melted dark chocolate and dust with ground cinnamon (yum), or use pecan butter and chopped pecans as the base for energy balls, mixed with chopped dried figs, raisins, or apples, rolled oats, cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger.
Pick up a bag of pecans on your next trip to the market, or look for the nuts in bulk. And if you live in California, Kansas, Missouri, or a southern state, search for fall pecan picking in your area.
Cynthia Sass is Health’s contributing nutrition editor, a New York Times best-selling author, and a consultant for the New York Yankees and Brooklyn Nets.
It’s not pretty.
This article originally appeared on Time.com.
Sometimes, a juicy cheeseburger and an order of hot, crispy fries simply call your name. (Greasy foods are so beloved that they have an entire day devoted to them; National Greasy Foods Day is October 25.) While it’s fine to give in to your cravings now and then, it’s important to know how your nutrition choices, and those greasy foods in particular, affect your health.
Does greasy food cause acne? Why does it make your stomach feel weird? And why is greasy food bad for you, anyway? We consulted Ayla Barmmer, a Boston-based registered dietitian, to find out. Here’s what eating greasy foods does to your body.
It strains your digestive system
“When we eat greasy foods like fried food, the sheer volume of fat puts a lot of pressure on our digestive system,” Barmmer said in an email to TIME. Of fat, carbs and protein, fat is the most slowly digested, and it requires enzymes and digestive juices, like bile and stomach acid, to break it down, she says. Everything from stress to medication can lower levels of these digestive juices, so many people are deficient to begin with, Barmmer says. Add in fat, and your digestive system will be working overtime, often leading to bloating, nausea and discomfort.
It makes you run to the bathroom
The most common symptom of digestive strain is an unpleasant one. “Not only will food just sit in your stomach, but it may enter the intestines inadequately digested,” Barmmer says. “Sometimes you wind up seeing greasy or oily stools in these cases.” Many people also experience diarrhea and stomach pain after eating greasy food.
It throws your gut bacteria out of whack
More and more evidence suggests that what you eat affects your gut bacteria, also known as your microbiome. Downing a cheeseburger and fries, Barmmer says, isn’t doing those microorganisms any favors. “Greasy foods do not contain the nourishing, healthy fats that we find in things like avocados, fish, extra virgin olive oil and even butter,” she says. Eating more refined vegetable oils than nourishing fats, she says, tips the body’s balance of fatty acids, which in turn may throw off everything from hormone levels to immune health.
Greasy food may cause acne
You may not see zits directly after a big meal, but Barmmer says that greasy food likely does play a role in acne. “The effect is indirect, occurring over time and as a result of a dietary pattern of eating,” she says. “Acne is largely caused by hormonal imbalances and/or bacterial imbalances, so greasy foods cause acne by way of harming gut health.”
It raises your risk for heart disease and diabetes
If your diet consistently includes greasy foods, Barmmer says, you’ll likely see your risk for chronic conditions—particularly heart disease—go up. A 2014 study from researchers at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health found that people who ate fried foods between four and six times per week saw their risk for Type 2 diabetes climb 39%, and their risk for coronary heart disease increase by 23%. For people who ate it every day, those percentages only got higher.
Mobility, stability and strength are all important factors in having healthy spinal alignment. When working with sedentary or untrained individuals, beginning with a basic core strengthening routine can provide huge benefits in stabilization and strength. In tough cases, you’ll need to look deeper, literally, to get the outcome you and your client are looking for.
There are many causes of low back pain, so make sure your client has been cleared by their doctor to participate in an exercise program. Similarly, you may find that you are corresponding regularly with your client’s chiropractor or physical therapist. In these cases, you’ll need to clearly articulate your exercise programming and be prepared to discuss the strength and mobility observations you’ve made during your assessment.
When addressing back pain due to musculoskeletal dysfunction, abdominal or core strengthening exercises have long been a go-to recommendation to stabilize the spine. In situations where this hasn’t been effective, it is important to remember that the spine is similarly supported by deeper musculature that may need to be addressed.
When we review the anatomy of the musculature supporting the spine, we quickly note the multifidus, transverse abdominus, rectus abdominis, internal and external obliques, as well as the latissimus dorsi and the gluteal complex. These muscles all make up what we think of as the core.
Looking a layer deeper, you’ll notice that stabilization of the pelvis and the lumbar spine is also supported by the psoas, and the lumbo-pelvic-hip complex relies on the piriformis, illiacus and pelvic floor.
The lumbo-pelvic-hip complex is an intricate connection between the lower limbs and spine. This complex set of seemingly immobile bones provides stability and acts as an essential coordination point in the normal contralateral movement pattern of most movement, including the most basic movement pattern of all, walking.
Lifestyle Effects on the Musculature
The balance of mobility, stability and strength is essential to providing coordination throughout the kinetic chain. Sitting for long periods of time creates an imbalance, providing the perfect environment for connective tissue to shorten and weaken.
Other environmental influences can have the same effect on the pelvic floor. Pregnancy and childbirth, for example, can stretch, damage and/or weaken the pelvic floor muscles. Likewise, lack of activity and obesity can both take a toll on the ability of these muscles to perform their essential function.
Lengthen & Strengthen
It is well documented that sitting leads to shortened iliacus and psoas muscles, and the entire group of hip flexors. Because they are held in a shortened position all day long, these muscles lose their mobility and elasticity. You may well know that it is important to focus on increasing the range of motion of these muscles through holding static stretches for 30 seconds to five minutes. This can decrease any hyperlordosis caused by the shortened muscles that may lead to increased back tightness or pain.
Don’t stop there. Once you increase mobility and elasticity, the body will have a stabilization demand. You must increase strength and proprioception in the hip flexor muscles to keep them from finding stability by tightening again.
These exercises will increase strength, stabilization and proprioception of the muscles.
Standing Knee Raise
In this exercise, your client must stand on one foot; however, training balance is not the first step. At first, your client should hold on to something stable, like a ballet bar or the wall.
- Place a small hurdle or cone directly in front of your client. The hurdle should be low to start and can increase in height as your client becomes stronger.
- Standing on one foot, raise the opposite knee into a marching position.
- Move the knee across the body so that the toe taps on the floor on the other side of the hurdle (in front of the opposite foot).
- Lift the knee again and return to the starting position.
- Throughout the exercise, cue your client to keep the hips level and spine straight.
- Repeat for multiple sets and reps. At first, fatigue may set in early.
Regress this exercise: If the hip hikes with the knee raise, lower the height of the hurdle and consider stretching the quadratus lumborum.
Progress this exercise: Increase the height of the hurdle until your client’s foot is clearing the height of their knee.
Once this becomes easy, decrease the stabilization. Have your client hold on to a walking stick, dowel rod or your hand instead of the wall.
Once your client can progress to balancing without an external stabilizing method, add a light leg weight or use a cable with a leg cuff. Note: you may have to add back in the external stabilization after adding weight and move through the progression again.
Pelvic Floor: Beyond Kegel’s
You have likely heard of Kegel exercises. These exercises are a great way to reconnect with the pelvic floor muscles if they are not firing. However, as with any muscle, progressive load is required to improve strength.
Sumo squats and deep squats are a great way to engage the pelvic floor muscles under a progressively greater load.
When working with a client with occasional back pain, an appropriate squat progression becomes even more important.
- Start with box squats or chair squats to ensure you are teaching your client to properly hip hinge.
- Once your client has the strength and mobility to perform a box squat, remove the box and continue to increase range of motion of the squat.
- Using a suspension trainer or the bar on a Smith machine is a great counter support to allow for good form and greater range of motion.
- Once your client is ready for weighted squats, stay away from back squats. Goblet squats, sumo squats and T-bar squats are all great ways to add weight without the added strain on the shoulders.
These exercises do not represent a complete program for back pain, but instead serve as a deeper level of exercise progression for clients who continue to struggle with recurring incidents. Slow and steady progression is key to decreasing back pain, so start at the very lowest progressions recommended and consistently progress only when ready.
If you haven’t already done so, expand your professional network to include chiropractors, massage therapists and physical therapists. It often takes a collective mind to help those with stubborn back pain, and an expanded network is an excellent way to ensure that your client is getting the best of care.
Want to learn more? Read about the muscles of the core.
Is there such a thing as eating too much avocado? Dr. Raj has the answer.
You know healthy fats like salmon, avocado, and olive oil are good for you, but can you overdo it? The most recent Dietary Guidelines for Americans don’t give a strict upper limit for how much total fat you should eat (though they do recommend keeping saturated fat consumption to less than 10 percent of your daily calorie intake). And as you know, healthy fats found in foods like avocado, nuts, salmon, and extra-virgin olive oil have many benefits: They provide your body with lasting energy, keep you feeling full longer, and help your body absorb fat-soluble vitamins. However, all dietary fat—both unhealthy trans and saturated fats and good-for-you monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats—is more calorie-dense than protein and carbohydrates, so eating too much could lead to weight gain.
If you’re a generally healthy adult, I suggest getting anywhere from 25 to 35 percent of your daily calories from mostly monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, which is a moderate amount. (So if you eat, say, 2,000 calories per day, shoot for 65 grams or so of fat, which is equivalent to roughly one avocado plus 2 1/2 tablespoons of EVOO.) A registered dietitian can look at your diet and tailor that number to fit your needs.
Health’s medical editor, Roshini Rajapaksa, MD, is assistant professor of medicine at the NYU School of Medicine.
Since 2015, the anonymous model and photographer known simply as Nude Yoga Girl has been sharing nude self-portraits on Instagram. In most of these photos, she’s in the middle of a challenging yoga pose—and carefully positioned so as not to be too revealing. The images are honest and real, and the yogi’s captions often document her journey towards self-love.
Thanks to her artistic shots and insightful, body-positive comments, Nude Yoga Girl has amassed more than 672,000 followers on the social network. And now, many of these followers are sharing their own nude yoga photos using the hashtag #NYGyoga. The images (more than 450 so far) capture diverse body shapes and sizes, helping to spread Nude Yoga Girl’s message that yoga is for everyone.
The talented yogi has been encouraging her followers to bare it all and share their stories on the social platform. In a recent post on Instagram, she explained why the act of posting a nude yoga photo can be so powerful.
“It’s much more than just the actual photo,” she writes. “I think about it as an experience to really connect with your body, be there with it in a natural way. It’s the positive experience, photo and caption together.”
Check out some of the stunning photos below.
“The empowering feeling they get from it. That makes me happy,” the model writes. “By receiving and sharing the photos I want to inspire more people to do so.”
Props to Nude Yoga Girl for spreading a message of body positivity and self-love. These photos show that all body types are beautiful and strong, and we hope the inspiring hashtag continues to grow.
The workout-loving supermodel knows how to shut down the haters while inspiring her fans.
If you follow Ashley Graham on social media, you’re no stranger to the supermodel’s fit-stagrams. Graham constantly posts inspiring videos of her workouts at go-to gym The Dogpound, where she does everything from boxing to strength training.
But some of Graham’s followers, or should we say trolls, are constantly hating on her exercise game. On Sunday, the body-positive activist took to Instagram to share a little known secret about her workout posts.
“EVERYTIME [sic] after I post a workout video I get get [sic] comments like..’You’ll never be skinny so stop trying,’ ‘Don’t workout too hard, you’ll get skinny,’ ‘You still need your fat to be a model,’ ‘Why would you want to loose what made you famous,'” Graham wrote in her post.
In typical Graham fashion, she shut down the haters by explaining her reasons for hitting the gym so hard. None of them have to do with losing weight; instead, “feel good,” “get rid of jet lag,” and “clear my head” made Graham’s list. And the model knows what she’s talking about, because research backs up these and other health benefits of exercise.
To her point about feeling good: a sweat session can boost levels of the hormones endorphins, plus reduce stress and anxiety. A 2014 study also found that hitting the gym can improve memory, since aerobic exercise was linked to an increased hippocampus, the area of the brain that controls memory function. Regular exercise keeps your heart healthy, and as Graham noted, makes your body flexible, which can improve blood circulation.
While it’s totally fine to hit the treadmill or weight rack to slim down, if weight loss isn’t your objective, you’re hardly alone—you have one of the world’s most famous models in your corner.
If you’re craving juice …
Get an Evolution Fresh. This juice brand, owned by Starbucks, is available in other stores as well. While Starbucks doesn’t carry the complete line, there is one regularly stocked option I recommend: Sweet Greens and Lemon. The blend is like a liquid salad, with celery, apple, cucumber, spinach, romaine lettuce, kale, lime, lemon, and parsley. The entire 16-ounce bottle provides 100 calories, 32% of the Daily Value (DV) for potassium, 16% of the DV for vitamin A, and 12% of the DV for vitamin C.
If you’re jonesing for caffeine …
Order a tall caffè latte with almond milk (iced or hot). The iced version has just 50 calories from 5 grams of carbohydrate, 3 grams of fat, and 1 gram of protein. It provides 25% of your daily calcium needs and 8% of the DV for vitamin A, with a reasonable 75 mg of caffeine. The hot version contains the same amount of caffeine and 80 calories, from 7 grams of carb, 5 grams of fat, and 2 grams of protein. It also has slightly more calcium (35% of the DV) and vitamin A (10%).
If you need chocolate …
Ask for a hot cocoa made with coconut milk. A tall with “no whip” clocks in at just 210 calories—not too bad considering you’ll get your chocolate fix along with 25% of the DV for calcium, 20% of the DV for iron, 10% of the DV for vitamin A, and 12% of the DV for fiber. Just keep in mind, it’s not low-carb. The cocoa includes 28 grams of sugar, which is about 7 teaspoons worth and more than the recommended daily cap. In other words, make it an occasional treat.
If you want something cozy …
Get a short (8 oz.) steamed apple juice. While a whole apple is a better choice, of course, this fall treat can count toward your daily fruit intake. Made from 100% pressed apple juice (not from concentrate) and with no added sugar, you can sprinkle in a little cinnamon and nutmeg and warm up sans caffeine for 120 calories.
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If you’re looking to hydrate …
Pick up a San Pellegrino sparkling mineral water. Flat water is better for your digestive health (bubbles can cause bloating) but sometimes a little fizz can make H2O feel like a fancy treat. A plain San Pellegrino provides a bubbly fix for zero calories, only 20 milligrams of sodium in a 16-ounce bottle, and nothing artificial.
Cynthia Sass is Health’s contributing nutrition editor, a New York Times best-selling author, and a consultant for the New York Yankees and Brooklyn Nets.
No one goes to a health club or fitness studio hoping they leave in worse shape than when they arrived. There is one common denominator shared by everyone who exercises on a regular basis: we all want results from our time spent sweating! This is one reason why high-intensity interval training (HIIT) workouts have become so popular over the past number of years; simply put, they work! HIIT workouts are designed to push you to your physical limits, where you’re constantly sweating, out of breath and feeling downright uncomfortable. As instructors often say, “If it doesn’t challenge you, it won’t change you.”
Yes, HIIT workouts work and can be very effective for burning a lot of calories in a relatively short amount of time. But does exercise really have to be so hard or uncomfortable to be effective? Do you really need to work at an extremely challenging intensity every time you exercise? The good news is that the answers are no and no.
HIIT, while effective, could have a number of negative consequences that could actually keep your clients from getting the results they are working toward. This doesn’t mean that you should avoid using HIIT with your clients; rather, it’s a much better idea to limit high-intensity workouts to three or fewer times per week for those who are age 35 and younger, and two or less for those who are older than 35. The reality is that fitness improves after the workout, not during it. If people constantly hammering as hard as they can with every workout, they aren’t allowing their bodies the necessary time to experience optimal recovery.
If you or your clients are not already doing some form of sub-maximal, steady-state aerobic conditioning, consider adding it to your current workout program. There are a number of differences between HIIT and steady-state training (SST) that have already been discussed in a previous post (read it here). The purpose of this blog is to highlight six benefits of sub-maximal SST to help you decide whether or not you should make it a regular component of your clients’ long-term workout programs (hint: you should).
1. One of the biggest benefits of SST is strengthening the heart.
Your heart is simply a muscle with the function of pumping blood through your entire body. One of the biggest benefits of SST is strengthening the heart so that it becomes more efficient at doing its job. The lungs pull oxygen in from the air and place it in the bloodstream, and the heart is responsible for pumping the oxygenated blood around the body to the working muscles. Maintaining a steady state in the aerobic zone can help the body become much more efficient at pumping oxygenated blood to the working muscles and moving the deoxygenated blood back to the lungs to remove the carbon-dioxide and be reoxygenated.
2. To optimize aerobic efficiency during exercise, stay at an intensity where breathing is quick, but under control.
You can easily determine the appropriate intensity for optimal aerobic efficiency by using the science behind the Talk Test. The Talk Test is the foundation for programming in the cardiorespiratory component of the ACE IFT Model of exercise program design. When you can talk during exercise, you are working at an intensity where the aerobic energy system is using oxygen to help metabolize fat into energy to fuel muscle activity. As exercise intensity increases, energy demands become more immediate and the body will start using stored carbohydrates (glycogen in the muscle cells) to supply energy. As work increases, the body needs more oxygen and, because it’s burning more carbohydrate, is expiring (breathing out) more carbon dioxide. This, in turn, increases breathing rate, which limits the ability to talk. To optimize aerobic efficiency during exercise, urge your clients to work at an intensity where breathing is quick, but under control, and where they can talk without too much difficulty (i.e., on a scale of 1 to 10, where 10 is the hardest, this would be about between 5 and 6). Staying at this intensity optimizes aerobic efficiency instead of simply trying to work as hard as possible.
3. Aerobic SST can help the body become more efficient at using fat to fuel muscle activity.
At lower intensities, the body will metabolize free fatty acids (fat) as the primary source of fuel. As mentioned above, at higher intensities the body relies on carbohydrates for energy, and high-intensity workouts that deplete muscle glycogen will, over time, cause adaptations to your muscles so they can store more glycogen for future high-intensity workouts. Training at a lower intensity using the aerobic energy pathways helps the body become more efficient at lipolysis, which is the breakdown of fatty acids (lipids) into energy (in the form of adenosine triphosphate, or ATP).
4. Because SST is less physically demanding than HIIT, exercising to improve aerobic capacity could help reduce one’s risk of injury.
As energy depletes during high-intensity exercise, there is a tendency to lose form or technique, which could be a cause of injury. However, SST also poses the risk of overuse injury if the same exercise is performed repeatedly. For the best results from SST, it’s a good idea to switch modes of exercise so that you do not overuse any muscles. When working with clients in a health club, have them switch machines (e.g., stationary bike, treadmill, stair climber, rowing machine, elliptical trainer) every 10-12 minutes to help break of the monotony of SST and reduce the stress on any single joint or muscle group. The goal is to maintain the same level of intensity (5-6/10) on each piece of equipment and accumulate a total of 30-60 minutes for the entire workout.
5. SST in the aerobic zone is important for cellular health.
For example, SST can increase the number of mitochondria in muscle cells (mitochondria are the components of the cell that help convert oxygen to fuel). Over the long-term, increasing the amount of mitochondria in muscle cells helps improve overall aerobic efficiency and cellular function, and may also mitigate the effects of the normal, biological aging process.
6. SST can help with active recovery from harder, more-challenging workouts.
Lower-intensity aerobic conditioning, around 4-5/10, will help remove metabolic waste while delivering the nutrients that can help repair the muscles used in the previous day’s workout. Even if mildly sore, SST in the aerobic zone can help the body fully recover and prepare for the next hard workout.
When it comes to deriving long-term benefits from exercise, it is better to train smarter as opposed to simply push the body to work harder. Knowing how to properly organize your clients’ long-term fitness programs by alternating between low-, moderate- and high-intensity workouts are the real secrets to achieving long-term success from exercise.