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Are High-Intensity Workouts Right For You ?

Many Americans believe that high-intensity cardiovascular workouts are a young man’s (or woman’s) game. The rise in popularity of CrossFit, Tough Mudder, and other extreme workouts, have many people shuddering in their sneakers. This is especially true of people with chronic illness, including Parkinson’s disease, heart disease, and diabetes, as they believe that vigorous exercise could be unsafe. While light to moderate exercise are usually the norm among this segment, new research suggests that high-intensity workouts may actually be not only safe, but perhaps even more effective at reducing symptoms related to many maladies.

One of the new exercise regimes known as high-intensity interval training (HIIT) is being studied as a treatment for certain chronic health problems. In HIIT, participants engage in 30-60 second exercise that pushes one’s physical limits to the brink. This short burst is followed by an easier physical activity for around two minutes, and then back to another 30-60 second burst. This sequence continues for around 20 minutes. Scientists believe that HIIT is more effective than regular moderate exercise at improving many physical functions.

A recent Danish study showed that high-intensity interval walking was successful at lowering glucose levels in people with type-2 diabetes. The training was also more effective than moderate exercise at reducing body fat and increasing physical fitness. HIIT can improve the body’s blood vessels ability to expand, thus reducing the risk of a blood clot. The results of the study were promising and may be able to cross over to other chronic illnesses.

Anyone thinking of starting HIIT should always speak with their physicians, especially those managing illness. They may or may not recommend the exercise, or may start small with elevated exercise which will gradually lead to higher levels. But if you are strong enough, do not fear that HIIT will exacerbate issues associated with a chronic illness. Recent research has shown HIIT appears safe for those with certain coronary disease and may even reduce risk of a heart attack.

Other studies on the effects of HIIT as treatment for illness such as Parkinson’s and stroke patients. Those who suffer persistent disabilities because of stroke have shown increased strength in weak areas. While moderate aerobic is also beneficial, HIIT can be even better. For sufferers of Parkinson’s, HIIT has been shown to reduce muscle stiffness and rigidity. Researchers in Poland followed 11 participants with mild to moderate Parkinson’s symptoms as they engaged in HIIT three times a week for eight weeks. The participants afterwards improved upper and lower body function, which researchers believe may be due to the dopamine released during HIIT.

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