High-Intensity Interval Training: Why It Just May Be a ‘Miracle’ Workout

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Fitness marketers often use extreme language (“Breakthrough!” “Miraculous!”) to describe the latest hot workout or gear. But scientists and doctors are now using superlatives to discuss what many consider to be one of the most important new fitness approaches in decades: high-intensity interval training, or HIIT, an approach to exercise that people can do in relatively little time, but with oversize benefits.

If you ever did wind sprints in high school, then you know what HIIT is — brief bursts of very intense exercise followed by periods of slower, less-demanding work. Studies are showing that HIIT is an effective way for older people to build muscle, regulate insulin, cut fat and increase heart function. And for people just starting HIIT, it may take as little as one minute of hard work three times a week to see marked improvements.

Perhaps most exciting of all: HIIT seems to be able to turn back the clock on a cellular level, improving the function of mitochondria (the battery cells of the body). And the older you are, the greater its impact, according to studies. Example A: Robert Marchand, who turns 107 this month.

When he was 101, Marchand set a world record for how far a centenarian cyclist could ride in an hour. But today, Marchand appears to be getting even stronger than he was when he set the record — so much so, in fact, that in the past few years his peak pedal power has increased by an incredible 40 percent. When measured last year, Marchand had the fitness level of the average 50-year-old, thanks to HIIT.

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