By Abby Larson
Not having enough time is no longer an excuse to avoid exercising. Scientists at McMaster University in Canada published a study in The Journal of Physiology on short term high-intensity interval training (HIT), which consists of a series of short bursts of intense exercise with short recovery breaks in between. They found that HIT works as well in building muscle and improving oxygen delivery to muscles as long term exercise.
The study, headed by Professor Martin Gibala, was performed on college students on a stationary bike with a workload at about 95% maximum heart rate. Gibala found that doing 10 one-minute sprints on the stationary bike with one minute of rest in between resulted in the same physical benefits as long duration endurance biking. This means that the muscular benefits of exercise can be achieved with less time and less exercise. However, long-term exercise is still necessary for weight loss to maximize calories burned, but short-term, high intensity exercise is far more beneficial that no exercise at all.
The reasons behind these results are not yet known, but Gibala found that HIT activates some of the cellular pathways that are associated with producing the health benefits from endurance training.
These findings are not just for athletes trying to get into shape. The scientists at McMaster think that a less “all-out” HIT method can be beneficial for people who require the benefits of exercise but are not advised to exercise for prolonged periods of time. The team’s future research will examine the effects of HIT on the elderly, obese, and people with metabolic diseases such as diabetes.
So next time you only have 10-20 minutes to exercise, hop on a stationary bike to try this time-efficient and effective form of exercise. Remember, though, that exercise plans should be catered towards an individual’s fitness goals.
By Abby Larson
Can someone really be born to be an athlete? Science says so. The idea of a genetic basis to exercise is a fairly new area of science, but it makes sense based on how the human body works. The expression of genes controls the function of human physiology: muscle development, capillary growth, hemoglobin concentration in red blood cells, etc. After strenuous exercise, gene expression fires up to control muscle tissue repair due to increased forces on the body and tissue metabolic demand. Capillaries feeding the muscles grow and become more efficient at delivering oxygen to tissues. All of this is controlled by gene expression, the cellular switchboard of the human body.
Recent studies have identified over 200 genes that can determine the body’s ability to adapt quickly to exercise. Based on this, training and conditioning could only take an athlete up to his or her genetically predetermined potential. Does this mean that children can be genetically tested to see if they will be good at sports? Is there a gene that makes a good football player versus a good runner? It’s more complicated than saying if a person has a specific gene, he or she can be a top athlete. Like all processes in the human body, multiple genes are involved in adaptation to exercise and gene interactions play a large role. Gene products don’t interact in a linear fashion, but in pathways and networks. This makes genes harder to understand, and our knowledge of the interactions is in its infancy. Once these pathways are discovered, scientists can begin to understand the extent to genetic determination of athletic ability.
These studies on the genetic basis of exercise are not going to benefit just athletes—physical activity is one of the greatest preventative medicines for obesity, diabetes, and heart disease. It is likely that genes correlated with exercise response could be mutated in people that have obesity or heart disease, which proposes new options of drug and gene therapy as preventative medicine. The more we understand the benefits and mechanisms of exercise, the better we can understand how exercise can be used to improve public health. So next time you go to the gym or run outside, think to yourself, “this is science.”
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