Some of you may remember the jogging craze of the 1970s. One of its main proponents who also wrote a best-selling book about running was Jim Fixx. Ironically, Jim Fixx died of a heart attack at age 52 while running. This puzzled me for a while as I thought exercise, and specifically cardiovascular exercise was good for your heart and longevity. What I now know is that exercise naturally generates reactive oxygen species (ROS), otherwise known as free radicals.
Olympic athletes know this and take numerous precautions to minimize the toxic effects of ROS. This can be done through diet and supplementation, as well as the appropriate amount of rest after intense workouts.
Since most of us are not elite Olympic athletes, what do we do to offset this?
If you are like most people, the first thing that comes to mind is to simply not exercise! This of course is not a good solution as exercise is necessary for the body to maintain optimal health, eliminate toxins, balance hormones and blood sugar, as well as build and maintain muscle. Not exercising can be as bad, or possibly worse than exercising too much. So what’s the Goldilocks zone?
There are numerous physiologists, coaches and trainers that can give you specific formulas for your age, body type and activity. One of the best exercises that has come to light is called HIIT or High Intensity Interval Training. This exercise type has been extensively researched to produce the optimal effects of cardiovascular exercise without the deleterious effects of generating too many reactive oxygen species. Here’s how it works:
Engage in cycles of approximately 30 seconds high intensity cardiovascular output, followed by one minute to a minute and a half periods of rest. The high intensity, short bursts should be equivalent to the intensity level of running away from a tiger that is about to eat you! The resting phase consists of gentle movement, such as walking. These times can be adapted (intensity and recovery), as well as how many cycles repeated to suit each person. Fifteen to twenty minutes of this HIIT workout has been shown to produce the benefits of 45 min to 1 hr of chronic cardio without the excessive production of ROS!
You can do this running, swimming, cycling, jumping rope, any cardiovascular type exercise that you want to try. If you are not used to exercising vigorously, please get checked out by a medical professional before beginning. If you commit to doing this 2 to 3 times a week, the benefits will be felt in the moment and in the years that are added to your life!
In the coming posts, we will be exploring sleep, rest, supplements and of course, care for your nervous system (hint, hint, Network Care!)