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It’s important to make sure you’re getting enough exercise, but how much is enough? In 2008, guidelines were published that explained how much physical activity Americans should be getting. The results showed that the minimum amount of activity was 75 minutes of vigorous activity or 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity per week.
Interestingly enough, the leisure time activities of individuals were also studied. This showed that those with an activity level below the recommendation had a 20% lower mortality rate. Those that met the guidelines saw a 31% decrease in mortality and those that exceeded the guidelines by three to five times saw a 39% decrease in mortality.
Most people recognize that there are health benefits of exercising regularly. Now there is proof showing that engaging in regular physical activity will lower cancer risk and risk of cardiovascular disease. As the studies have shown, every little bit counts, even activity at a moderate level.
So how can you tell the difference between moderate and vigorous physical activity? If you can carry on a conversation while being active, you’re moving at moderate pace. When the intensity increases such that the heart rate climbs into the 130 to 180 range, this is considered a vigorous mode. However, you should not be doing that for extended periods of time, as it is hard to keep pace. One example of this is high-intensity interval training or HIIT. With HIIT, you push yourself to that max limit and then let yourself recover. This not only improves cardiovascular fitness but will also count toward vigorous activity.
A mix of moderate and vigorous activity is recommended for most people. Try to pair moderate activity with stress reducing activities, such as talking a walk outdoors. This will allow you to relax, lower your cortisol, stimulate your senses, and give you an overall sense of well-being. If you’re still wondering how much is enough, a good target is four to six hours per week of exercise, with the type and style being based on what is important to you.
What exactly is HIIT or high intensity interval training? HIIT is an intense workout where you are giving a full 100% during your intense sessions. However, the intense sessions are followed by a recovery session that usually lasts three times the length of the intense session. HIIT is designed to put a metabolic challenge on your body, which helps to rev up your metabolism. HIIT is a quick and easy way to get an intense workout while improving your cardiovascular fitness and boosting your metabolism.
With HIIT, it’s important to focus on your diet first. When you do intense work, you burn certain calories and set up your metabolism for a post-workout burn. This increased metabolism can last as long as 24 hours. It’s important to know how your body will react, and then monitor what you’re eating. You will need enough fuel to fully recover before your next high intensity interval training.
In the work phase, you need to hit 100% effort. Move and work hard, but only do it for 30 seconds or less. An example of a good work phase would be doing sprints. Remember, the rest interval that follows will last three times the length of the work phase. This allows the body to hit recovery. During the work phase, a heart rate can go up to 190. Once the heart rate is back to 125, then it’s time for the next work phase.
When first starting high intensity interval training, you may only be able to do three or four rounds. That is normal. You want to take it slow at first. With HIIT, it is possible to over train and stress yourself. Because of this, you will never want to do more than 10 rounds in a session.
When trying high intensity interval training or HIIT, the key is to start slow and work hard. Try one session per week. If you’re recovering fully, add another. Give it a try and see what you think!