Would you rather SIT or HIT?
SIT sounds like it’s too passive and HIT sounds too aggressive. But they are actually acronyms for intense forms of activity that can help us to better health and fitness in a fraction of the time that current exercise programs recommend.
SIT is Sprint Interval Training. HIT is High Intensity Interval Training (because HIIT is harder to say).
Sprint Interval Training means going all out in 30 second sprints on special laboratory bikes interspersed with four and one-half minutes of slow cycling. If you are young and healthy, this is probably the fastest way for you to get fit.
High Intensity Interval Training is appropriate for the rest of us. It is the traditional interval training that many people have done for years and I have written about previously at Efficient Exercise for Glucose Control and Better Fitness for Our Hearts and Blood Glucose. This can mean 15 to 60 second bursts of high intensity cycling interspersed with 2 to 4 minute intervals of low intensity cycling on the stationary bikes we find in gyms and in some of our homes.
What’s new is that sports and exercise scientists in the UK show that Sprint Interval Training is just as good for us as doing much longer endurance workouts. Their study shows that SIT is equally effective as endurance training in decreasing the stiffness of our arteries, increasing the network of capillaries in our skeletal muscles, and increasing the bioavailability of nitric oxide. They published their findings this month in the most recent issue of The Journal of Physiology. The full-text of their article is online here.
An ongoing study at the University of Birmingham in the UK shows that people ranging in age from 25 to 60 who had been previously sedentary found High Intensity Training on stationary bikes much more enjoyable that endurance training, according to Sam O. Shepherd, a doctoral researcher from this university's School of Sports and Exercise Science. “It also has a more positive effect on mood and their feelings of well-being,” he says.
So, if and when we can’t get outdoors or have the time for long endurance sessions, HIT can be our answer. The researchers say that people who are obese or elderly or those of us who have high blood pressure, heart disease, or diabetes will benefit from it.
Of course, we don’t have to do High Intensity Training indoors. I think that I get the same benefit from interval training out in nature. I like to hike and on the trail I sometimes jog briefly even when carrying a pack and my camera.
Whether SIT or HIT is right for you, one of them is bound to be more efficient than longer, slower exercise and better for your health than just sitting or hitting anything.