Week 5 Air Insight: Exercise Intensity

by admin

ESSENTIAL ELEMENT:  Exercise Intensity

Critical Concept:  Kick it up a notch
Intensity is where the “Good Stuff” is found.

We wish that we could tell you that the greatest fitness benefits come from an apparatus that plugs into the wall and does the exercise for you while you lay on the couch.  We can’t.  As it turns out, and as you might have suspected - the harder you work, the greater the benefit.

“Virtually any physiological measurement that we can make improves with exercise and gets worse the more sedentary we become,” says Dr. Loren Cordain, a physiologist at Colorado State University at Fort Collins.  “There is no simple formula,” he says, “but if health is your goal, the optimal amount of exercise is much more that you’d probably think.”

In fact, the benefits of exercise read like a Well People wish-list:  normalized blood pressure, cholesterol levels and lipid profiles, blood sugar levels and insulin sensitivity, arterial and heart function – all of which play a critical role in exercise’s well-documented disease prevention qualities.

In fact, in his landmark book Spark, author Dr. John Ratey, brain development and conditioning are the reasons to exercise.  Cognition, learning and memory improve.  Henriette van Praag, a neuroscientist at the National Institutes of Health says that “exercise helps prevent depression – even as well as depression medications” (without the adverse side effects of drugs, of course, and with all of the collateral benefits of fitness).

In fact, the harder you work, the greater the benefit.

As with all things in the Bonfire Lifestyle, we adopt new behaviors with a healthy respect for Transition and Progression.  Increase the intensity of your exercise gradually.  Use target heart rates as a guide for developing a training threshold.  Intensity is a relative term.  Regardless of your current fitness level, progression should be a priority.  Make it a goal to simply do more than yesterday.  Practice ideal technique as a correlate to intensity – never compromise one for the other.  Use the Bonfire Air Videos to guide you.  Always place equal emphasis on safety, mechanics and intensity.  The greatest health benefits will result from consistent training over time – compounding fitness.

If you want to save time and get the best results, make intensity a priority.  Research shows that the most effective fitness regimens are short interval, high intensity programs.  Although fitness programs should be constantly varied, the bulk of your training should include workouts that focus on short period, intense bursts of work.  Dr. Izumi Tabata, a Japanese Olympic strength and conditioning coach, determined the ideal intervals of work and rest for the athlete looking for serious results.  Can you believe that the greatest returns for your effort for both aerobic and anaerobic benefit (including fat burning) can be found in a four minute workout?

Best practices for keeping your workouts intense include the following:  incorporate the use of a timer or stopwatch for you workouts.  The simplest way to increase intensity is to lessen the time that it takes to complete an activity.  Check yourself:  if it is easy to carry on a conversation – ramp it up.  You should progress toward a target heart rate of 80-90% for your intensity intervals.  Training with a partner or a group, competition and encouragement always turns up the heat.  Use a greater load, go a longer distance, or do it all faster and harder and you’ll be on your way to ideal intensity and the greatest results.

Remember, if you are going to take the time to work out – get the most out of it.  Moving, sweating and panting are sure signs that you are heading toward optimal health.  Increasing your intensity will not only get you there faster, but it ensures that it will be over sooner, as well.