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  • High-intensity interval training (HIIT) best for health

    Author: AAP

High-intensity interval training protects the heart and the body against Type 2 diabetes, say experts.

In a time poor world high-intensity interval training makes sense.

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It also makes sense to our bodies, say experts, who believe it's an important element in the battle against chronic disease.

High-intensity interval training (HIIT) involves short bursts of intense exercise - the kind that makes you breath deeply - combined with moderate activity.

This model of exercise provides protection against cardiovascular disease and Type 2 diabetes because it helps the body regain control of blood glucose levels and blood pressure, says Norweigan exercise researcher Dr Trine Moholdt.


Dr Moholdt is the head of the Exercise, Cardiometabolic Health and Reproduction (EXCAR) group at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology.

Her research focuses on exercise training as a therapeutic tool for preventing disease and improving fertility or pregnancy outcomes.

Dr Moholdt says numerous studies have shown such exercise increases the body's oxygen uptake, a sign of a stronger heart.

"The reason for the increased oxygen uptake is that the heart gets stronger it's able to pump more blood, also the skeletal muscles get better at utilising the oxygen," Dr Moholdt told AAP while in Australia for the Australian Catholic University's 2017 International Scientific Research Symposium in Melbourne last week.

Dr Moholdt advocates a 4x3 regime to be included a few times a week combined with other activity.

This HIIT regime involves four minutes of high-intensity exercise broken up with three minutes of moderate exercise repeated for a minimum of 30 minutes.

"It's not that you get totally exhausted every four minutes you should be able to continue for another minute, you should not feel pain in you legs you should just breathe heavily," Dr Moholdt said.

Australian cardiologist Dr Ross Walker supports high-intensity interval training because it's a great way to fit vitally important exercise into daily life.

"If you practised twenty minutes of high-intensity interval training that's equivalent to an hours worth of solid walking," Dr Walker said.

The other reason why high-intensity interval training is worthwhile, Dr Walker says, is because it simulates the physiology of the body's original design to be a hunter gatherer.

"The more we can live to our physiology the healthier we are," Dr Walker said.

"The reason why hunter gatherer's only lived 30, 40 years was because they had their head ripped off by the sabre tooth tiger or they died of some infection. We don't have those problems but we're getting a whole lot of other diseases because we are living against our physiology," Dr Walker said.

Researchers in Queensland are now turning to HIIT as a way to help people with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (Non-alcoholic steatohepatitis, or NASH) reduce their risk of type 2 diabetes.

A trial led by University of Queensland School of Human Movement and Nutrition Sciences researcher Dr Shelley Keating will investigate whether HIIT can improve insulin sensitivity.

"We have recently demonstrated that exercise therapy reduces liver fat in adults with obesity, but patients with NASH may need a more intense 'dose' of exercise," Dr Keating said.


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