We are into 2019 and many people are coming to new exercise regimes, ready for the summer. Last month I wrote about the relationship between exercise and food and weight loss. I thought it might be useful to look at different types of exercise and the relative merits of different forms of exercise.
I am frequently asked “What sort of exercise should I do?” The answer is that people should do whatever sort of exercise that they enjoy the most. All exercise should be good for both physical health and mental health. It should be a pleasure that you look forward to doing and never become a chore or a burden. After that it depends what you are trying to achieve. Some are training for a specific event, either a race or a challenge. Some are trying to lose weight and get fitter. Some exercise is to simply get some ‘head space’ and reduce stress. Some like the social aspect of classes, while some like the solitude of running.
Here, I will discuss different types of exercise and their varying benefits:
As the name suggests HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) or Circuit Training this training gets the heart rate up to close to 80% of your maximum heart rate (Maximum heart rate calculated as 220–age) High heart rate means that the primary fuel is glycogen, which we discussed in one of my previous blogs is the bi-product of sugar that we store in our muscles and liver. Glycogen is easily available in the muscles an liver, but not for long, probably about 20-30 minutes of fuel is available. So HIIT or Circuit training is generally short and intense.
Blood chemistry has been shown to change during High Intensity Interval Training, with an immediate reduction in blood sugar and fat in the blood. If HIIT and Circuit training are well planned they offer strength gains in legs, arms and core. It should also offer gains in flexibility. The movements are varied and should offer good variety.
It does not offer great weight loss options as the body will use sugar as its fuel and not fat burning. It will change body shape and composition as you improve your muscle tone and strength.
Endurance/Fat Burning Sessions
This may involve cycling, running, walking or swimming. The target is to get the heart rate up to 180º–age beats per min. Quite a bit lower than HIIT and therefore sustainable for longer. Sessions need to be 45 minutes or longer and will demand that the body uses body fat as its primary fuel.
This form of training should be more effective at stimulating weight loss and burning body fat. It should be less injurious, but we should be careful as it is repetitive and the long sessions may highlight any biochemical issues. The downside is that it takes up quite a lot of time as sessions need to be long. Many people in modern day life may struggle to commit the time to do this.
Equally if this is done regularly, and once a week is probably enough, it will improve fitness but more importantly train the body to access the fat stores. From a personal point of view I believe that committing to regular training triggers something in your brain to eat better.
In here I would include classes like dance, Zumba and Spinning. This offers a mixture of High Intensity and Endurance training, often these consisting of high energy movements using your body weight as resistance. Aerobic classes are popular because they are social and should be fun. This mixture of training probably offers the best compromise to achieve fitness and muscle tone as well as burning fat.
For many people, committing to a class makes you attend more regularly. The regular structure of a session at a fixed time of the week, or pre paying for sessions is a great motivator on dark winter evenings.
These are very popular forms of exercise. Except high intensity yoga, these exercises generally do not aim to raise the heart rate. They are aimed at flowing body movement and this in turn teaches good core strength. It is subtle and needs to be done regularly and over a long period of time to gain the benefits.
This type of exercise does work better in trying to stretch or realign the body as opposed to the conventional western style of stretching. Conventional stretching focuses on individual muscle groups, but that is quite an artificial view of the body which is much more connected than anatomy books would suggest
Weight training/Resistance Training
This form of training includes lifting weights and pulling cables. Alongside any sport athletes should be doing some weight training designed around the demands of the sport.
Some sports like rugby or rowing may demand that athletes need to maintain or gain weight and muscle strength, in this case lifting heavy weights for low repetitions is the way to train. Distance running may require staying light and lean so lifting light weights with high repetition would be recommend. Skill sports like tennis or golf will also benefit from the appropriate resistance training.
This form of exercise will change muscle tone and definition but it also appears to be good for weight loss. There is evidence that weight training causes a delayed fat burning effect for up to 24 hours after the training session.
So the summary is that you should do exercise that you enjoy. Make it appropriate to what you aim to achieve and that way it would be sustainable. Regularity is a key word, to keep the mind and body healthy.