The Fast Way To Long Health: Move Really Quickly
This article was originally published in Breaking Muscle as the 5th installment of a 5-part series: https://breakingmuscle.com/fitness/the-fast-way-to-long-health-move-really-quickly
“I wish I looked less like a sprinter.” - Nobody, ever
Most of us will never be graced with the physiques of Usain Bolt or Jessica Ennis, but we can all benefit from a little sprinting. In fact, moving really quickly for short periods of time is one of the easiest and fastest ways to improve health.
As we continue to work our way down the Great Upside-Down Movement Pyramid, we’re now approaching the pointy end. If you’ve made it this far, you should be sitting less, walking more, and lifting stuff.
As we’re constructing a sustainable movement plan for long-term health, this is also a good time to recap the “rules” of the pyramid:
Make movement a habit rather than a chore.
If you’re not managing to do the level above, don’t move to the level below.
As you use more levels of the pyramid, it becomes increasingly unstable. This means you need more time to recover - eat, sleep, rest.
If you can’t recover better, don’t add more.
Don’t obsess over the details. Do what comes naturally and what you enjoy.
Tired and stressed? Just hang out exactly where you are on the pyramid. Do some high-quality recovery (like putting delicious food in your mouth and getting enough sleep), and enjoy the fact that you’re making movement part of your daily routine.
On the other hand, if you’re feeling pumped from lifting things and all that walking, and you’re ready to up the ante a little, it’s time to move…really quickly.
Maximum Bang for Minimum Buck
Strength and cardiovascular fitness are simple and reliable indicators of longevity and quality of life . More importantly, improving these areas does not require superhuman effort. It’s never too late to improve your fitness for increased quality of life, not to mention a longer lifetime .
In order to improve cardiovascular fitness, we often focus on obvious cardio, such as jogging.This has started to change in the last ten years, and you’ve probably heard talk about interval training. It might be referred to as HIIT (high-intensity interval training), SIT (sprint interval training), HIIE (high-intensity intermittent exercise), or HIET (high-intensity exercise training) [6-9]. As there’s no real consistency in the terminology, and everything in science needs a good acronym, I’ll use my own – MRQ (moving really quickly).*
"MRQ (moving really quickly) has been shown to be better than cardio, particularly for people who already have some kind of health problem, such as heart disease or obesity."
Almost every study comparing MRQ to cardio has shown that, for less or the same total effort, and much less total time, MRQ gives as much, and often a greater, improvement in cardiovascular fitness [10,11]. MRQ has been shown to be better than cardio, particularly for people who already have some kind of health problem, such as heart disease or obesity [6,12,13].
If that’s not enough to get you excited about sprinting, MRQ has also been shown to:
Improve metabolic health **
**I wanted to use MRQWANRBS (moving really quickly with a nice rest between sets), but it’s a bit of a mouthful.
**By activating the AMPK -> PGC-1α -> NRF-1 signaling pathway, which increases production of mitochondria. This is probably the main reason why MRQ efficiently boosts cardiovascular fitness [12,22-24].
Pick Your Poison
A number of different MRQ protocols are proven to improve cardiovascular fitness, but not many of these have been directly compared. This leaves you, dear reader, with a number of options. If sprinting is completely new to you, try this:
Start with a 5-10 minute warm-up on your chosen exercise
Sprint for 10-60 seconds
Rest for 2-4 times as long as you sprinted
Repeat for 10-15 total minutes
Warm down, and head home
Many suggest the best way to improve cardiovascular fitness is with longer intervals, such as 4 or 5 sets of 4-minute sprints with 3-4 minutes rest in between each. Though it sounds daunting, this protocol has also been used in overweight subjects and in patients after cardiac surgery [10,11]. You just need to pick a pace that you can repeat in 4-minute bursts. Doing 5 sets of 4 minute sprints just once every two weeks is enough to maintain your fitness over a period of detraining . Remember, shorter intervals allow for greater intensity, which is what we need to maximise cardiovascular fitness .
Each protocol has a slightly different biochemical effect, but there’s little evidence that one is better than any other in terms of longevity. Consistency is most important. Many studies have found varied MRQ to be more enjoyable than traditional cardio, so pick a protocol you can do regularly. Have fun, and think about rotating every few weeks [18,19].
Exercise selection is also pretty simple. MRQ doesn’t have to be about running. Pick an exercise where the legs predominate and the body works as a whole. Most studies use either a treadmill or a stationary bike, but outdoor (hill) sprints or a rowing machine also work well, as does swinging a kettlebell . One study even used burpees .
Pick a whole-body movement you enjoy or have easy access to
Move really quickly
The harder you go, the earlier you can finish***
Repeat a few times
Be (more) awesome
***Not necessarily the best approach in other situations.
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