Stairs & Hills for Health13/01/2020
Everyone has heard about the benefits of regular yet sporadic exercise. Whether it's walking to the station, standing up at your work desk, or doing a few star jumps during your lunch break, breaking up long periods of inactivity is more important than doing long periods of activity. Healthy natural rhythms are not accurately described by a prolonged series of moderate movements, but rather by multiple sets of differing intensities and durations.
HIIT is the most famous example of this philosophy, with short periods of intense activity combined with longer and less intense recovery periods. In a sense, HIIT is an effort to induce novelty in the time domain, with the flat but slightly elevated heart rate of traditional exercise regimes transformed into a series of peaks and troughs. While this kind of intense exercise is not safe or ideal for everyone, it has proven to be more effective and efficient for most.
HIIT is known to improve athletic capacity, enhance physical condition, and improve glucose metabolism among other positive outcomes. While additional motivation and physical capacity is required to benefit from this training, the ebbs and flows of HIIT and similar fitness programs seem to mirror our natural physical responses. As we exercise, our body responds and makes adjustments over time. While consistency is the key to fitness success, it's equally important to shake things up to avoid your body or mind from getting too relaxed.
As it turns out, alternating periods of intensity with periods of rest is not the only way to benefit from this insight, with the curves of HIIT making just as much sense when they're brought into the real world. Incidental activity is the key, with real-world curves and slopes offering the benefits of HIIT throughout your daily life. Whether it's walking up and down the big hill close to your home or taking the stairs to the office, the natural ups and downs of your local landscape can be used to improve your general health.
As we strive for more comfort and security in modern life, additional effort is needed to avoid feeling flat. As it turns out, focusing on novelty and variation is much more effective than doing the same tired exercise regimes day after day. When you mirror the natural rhythms of your heart and physical responses with the ups and downs of your natural environment, you really are working smarter and not harder.