When did you last work out? Yesterday? This morning? For many of us, it’s both. Today’s fitness habits are not just about working out, but pushing ourselves to our absolute limits. And it’s become addictive; we sign up to boot camps to kick-start fitness regimes, tackle assault courses that were once designed for the military only, and book in for classes called ‘Insanity’ and ‘Sufferfest’ with a mix of terror and pride. But rather than making our bodies stronger, many of us are doing them physical harm, which is where Low-Intensity Interval Training (LIIT) comes in. Here’s what to know.
Your workout could be doing more harm than good
A report published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology found that people who push their bodies too hard can essentially negate the benefits of exercise. The study found that strenuous joggers were as likely to die from impacts on heart health as sedentary non-joggers, while light joggers who ran no more than three times a week (in total between 1-to-2.4 hours) had the lowest rates of mortality. And, despite its healthy reputation, even yoga can also worsen hip problems. “Any exercise, even yoga, when done excessively, can place enormous stress on the body,” says Dr Leon E. Popovitz, co-founder of the New York Bone and Joint Specialists.
LIIT: Less stress, better results
There is an emerging desire for a slower pace of exercise, which may signal an end to the explosive-exercise craze. LIIT, or Low Intensity Interval Training – think a Pilates/strength-training hybrid using heavy weights, resistance bands and bodyweight moves – promises visible results. Exercising at a lower intensity puts you in an aerobic state, which experts say burns fat at a higher percentage than anaerobic exercise.
But don’t confuse slow with gentle: if you’re using a heavy enough weight (5kg or more), the burn increases without causing injury to joints. Even the Victoria’s Secret models, whose bodies are their business and who are famed for their intensive workouts, are embracing an altogether slower pace of fitness. Now, instead of pounding the treadmill, many are eliciting the help of trainers such as Justin Gelband and Stephen Pasterino, whose methods of slow and controlled sculpting, weighted movements and stances are proving very effective.
If you’re a HIIT devotee…
For those who can’t give up high-intensity workouts entirely, the key is to keep it moderate. “Relying solely on intensive forms of exercise is not sustainable in the long term,” says Nathalie Schyllert, CEO of Bodyism. “For it to have a positive impact on the body, it must be balanced out with stretching and strength work.”
Schyllert reveals that her team has been known to swap an exceptionally driven client’s class for a fascial stretch therapy session or a massage without telling them, in an attempt to balance out their regimen. Current guidelines recommend that 150 minutes of moderate exercise each week (such as low-impact cardio, Pilates and yoga) is sufficient to stay healthy. “But everybody is different and it is about finding a balance and the right mindset that works for you,” says Schyllert. “We have one body, so we have to be kinder to it.”