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The relationship between fitness and health!

In an industry where trends are always coming and going, we must always stay true to principles (truths based on science) to navigate the complex world within which we, as trainers, operate.

One such trend that has been around for some time now is HIIT – high-intensity interval training – and with good reason. It offers up a multitude of benefits to the end user, which include (but are not limited to):

  1. Increased work volume, in a time-effective manner.
  2. Through the production of lactic acid, anabolic hormones such as testosterone, human growth hormone, IGF-1 (insulin-like-growth-factor 1) and m-Tor (local cell-produced type of hormone) all secrete to upregulate muscle protein synthesis (muscle growth) and drive down body fat. As 9/10 clients want/need aesthetic goals, this is the perfect recipe in which to achieve this.

Once you read number two, no wonder clients/trainers alike are ‘all in’ with this style of training – it stands to reason.

The thing is, we know that too much of one thing is not always a good thing; with benefit also comes risk. Too much of one thing will always cause benefit of a kind and detriment of another kind. For example, too much one-dimensional training comes with strength and aesthetic benefit but also repetitive trauma (wear and tear of joints/tissues through lack of variability).

Too much exposure to HIIT training can have long-term detrimental effects upon the body, such as:

  • increased arterial stiffness (hardening of the arteries, which directly leads to cardiovascular disease and circulatory dysfunction). This is because of oxidative stress (too long a window of time spent in the lactate zone) and aerobic wellbeing not taking place. Most people adopt restrictive work-to-rest ratios that impact on the above. To enhance performance (lactate threshold training) and down-play injury potential and arterial stiffness, the optimal work-to-rest ratios should aim to be 1:2 (i.e., 30secs anaerobic work, followed by 60secs aerobic recovery), maybe even 1:4 for a beginner progressing towards a 1:2 approach later as fitness increases
  • inevitable mitochondrial decline because of the oxidative stress imposed, so actually taking away CV/aerobic benefit at the level of the cell. A study shows that mitochondrial density directly correlates with one’s longevity in life (i.e., the more mitochondria you have, the longer you’ll live – provided you don’t get hit by a bus or have a nasty accident), so while HIIT helps you get stronger, fitter, faster, etc., which is great in your 20s, 30s and 40s, you actually age faster and cell health declines even more rapidly than that of a sedentary person. Ultimately, it gives you fitness but takes away health (health and fitness are NOT the same). That’s a scary statement, right?!

So, the question becomes how do I/we maintain the benefits of HIIT and offset those potent negatives?

Well, step forward the forgotten, seen-as-boring continuous/steady state style of training – long duration at aerobic threshold sustained intensity (once called long slow duration training).

The steady state approach to training includes aerobic metabolism taking place, upregulates the production of mitochondria and assists in the elasticity of arteries – giving you the exact tools that HIIT takes away.

So, rather than dismiss the long, slow, boring stuff in favour of the sexier HIIT style of training, periodise time in your training week where you incorporate both into your training regime to optimise BOTH health and fitness ‘gainz’.

Where to next? How about checking out the latest online education courses to keep you at the front of the industry?

Author Bio

Paul Edmondson headshot

Paul Edmondson is a dedicated leader within the fitness industry, having worked with, and for some of the leading pioneers and biggest brands in the world both nationally and globally.

Paul has presented in 24 countries, over 5 continents on behalf of Gray Institute, ViPR, TRX, Anatomy Trains, Trigger Point, SKLZ, institute of Motion and at the IDEA World conference.

His thought-provoking sessions are designed to bridge the gap between the traditional and new sciences to better equip trainers to serve their unique and individual clients.

Paul takes pride in delivering complex content in a simplified and application specific manner that is perfect for trainers wanting to learn more, and is determined to drive forward those he works with to help them become “better versions of themselves”