Image: Ms. Phoenix/CC BY 2.0How many parents do you know who would like to be fitter -- but can never find time in the day to start a regular exercise routine? Or perhaps you have tried aerobics, spinning, CrossFit, Zumba, Yoga/Pilates...or any other exercise trend you can name...only to fade into defeat as you failed to achieve the improvements you hoped for.
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You are not alone. Scientists have found that among people who stick to a supervised endurance training program, "20% of subjects show no change in fitness and 30% demonstrate no improvement in insulin sensitivity." And that is not to mention the stressed-out masses trying to hold jobs and family together, who never find time for any exercise -- at the cost of their own health.
The newest trend in exercise may be worth a look. High intensity interval training (HIIT) is gaining credibility in scientific circles. You may have encountered the concept as "Fartlek training" if you participated in sports a couple decades ago. In the mid-90's the training picked up the alias "Tabata training," after Professor Izumi Tabata employed HIIT to the benefit of the Japanese Olympic speedskating team.
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High intensity interval training involves short periods of all-out exercise interspersed by brief recovery periods at a slower pace. Demonstrated benefits have been documented in sessions of as little as four minutes of HIIT per day.
The most recent proponent, Jamie Timmons of Loughborough University, now leads a team of international scientists who plan to enroll hundreds of volunteers in a project that will study HIIT. One of the main goals of the project: teasing out which genetic and body types benefit most from HIIT. If you live near one of the participating institutions, you may be able to enroll in the program -- which has no problem attracting volunteers as word has spread about the fitness successes experienced by participants.
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If you are not able to join that program, you might still try adding some HIIT to your daily schedule. Talk to your doctor before beginning any training program -- especially if you have been without training for a long time or suffer from any condition, including obesity, that might overstress your heart or cardiovascular system during a new training activity. Remember that HIIT is about fitness benefits but may not be the best option for weight loss. And, like aerobics, HIIT may not work for everyone. If you have given it a couple months without success, try another approach. Your body with thank you; so will your kids, when you are around to see them reach the age where they finally appreciate all you are doing for them.
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