CSEP 2014 Posters

pic2pic3picLooking for some more information about our research we presented at CSEP 2014 in Newfoundland (or do you actually want to be able to read the posters)?  Click on the links below for a copy of the posters and full references (all as online PDF).

CSEP poster PWV SYS REV online CSEP poster RECOVERY CSEP Poster SYS REV(refernences-PDF) CSEP Poster SYS REV

Upcoming Research Presentations

Next week, members of the Human Performance and Health Research Laboratory will be traveling to St John’s NL for the annual meeting of the Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology.   Matthew Boulter and Josh Slysz will both be presenting the results of meta-analyses they have conducted (on exercise & pulse wave velocity, and the efficacy of blood flow restrictedCSEP conference logo exercise, respectively). Josh will also be presenting some original research into the efficacy of a novel mode of exercise recovery using an ischemic/re-perfusion stimulus combined with electrical stimulation. We will post a copy of these presentations to the website soon!

Dr. Burr will also be presenting at the conference and co-chairing a symposiumCapture titled: “Examining the unique physiological demands, risks, and benefits of Oldtimer’s hockey: is Canada’s game for everyone?”  Within this symposium Dr. Burr will focus on various established and more experimental strategies to reduce the risk of cardiovascular events in old-timer’s hockey players.

He will also be chairing a free communication session on human performance.

 

More Mitacs Funding in the Human Performance Lab

MITACSCongratulations to Matthew Boulter who received Mitacs Accelerate funding to support his MSc thesis work examining the effects of anti-inflammatory use on the arterial function of athletes following eccentric aerobic exercise. Matthew’s novel project is examining what happens to runners who push themselves really hard time after time (he wants to know if the alterations in arterial stiffening/endothelial reactivity that he observed in an earlier study occur to the same extent each time an athlete is exposed to this type of over-reaching exercise, or if the arteries adapt the same way our muscles do). Matthew is also looking at the use of Curcumin as an oral supplement to help our body deal with the inflammatory effects and muscle damage that occur with really intense exercise. The results of this research could have important implications for a range of people including endurance athletes and weight lifters all the way to people with certain chronic diseases. Want to know more about his studies, or maybe even get involved? Contact Matthew at msboulter@upei.ca. IMG_3099

Keep up the great work Matthew. We eagerly await the results.

Take a stand on sitting

There is accumulating evidence that sitting might be bad for you….and I don’t just mean that if you are a couch potato you might gain weight. In fact, some research suggests that the amount of sitting one does throughout their day is independently associated with health risks – that is, even if you meet the recommended guidelines of 150min/wk of moderate to vigorous activity, if you work a desk job (or otherwise sit for many hours a day) you are likely less healthy than you would be if you stood and moved more. So, we got our hands on a few standing desks and its time to put this to the test. Brittany MacEwen, a fourth year kinesiology student working in the Human Performance Lab with Dr. Burr and Dr. Saunders is looking at the effects of swapping out a traditional desk with a standing desk for 3 months. She will track the effects on things like: fitness, metabolic rate (calories burned), diabetes risk, cholesterol levels, movement at work (and at home after work) and arterial health. We can’t wait to see what happens!

We are currently recruiting. If you work on or near campus, have a desk job, perhaps carry a few more pounds than you used to and are interested in learning more information on how to get involved please check out the recruitment poster and email upeiexerciselab@gmail.com

Welcome to UPEI Dr. Travis Saunders!

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Dr. Travis Saunders

The Human Performance and Health Research Lab is thrilled to welcome Dr. Travis Saunders to UPEI. Dr. Saunders is an exercise physiologist with expertise in sedentary behavior and chronic disease. Travis comes to UPEI from eastern Ontario where he did his MSc (Queens) & PhD (Ottawa), and more recently from Halifax wherein he was completing post-doctoral work at Dalhousie. Travis brings a wealth of experience and will make a great addition to the team. We are excited to have him aboard as a colleague and close collaborator!

 

 

 

Varsity Athlete Fitness Combine.

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This fall the UPEI Varsity Panthers and Human Performance Laboratory joined forces to launch the first ever varsity fitness testing combine. Male and female athletes from all varsity sports (Soccer, field hockey, rugby, swimming, basketball, hockey) came together for two days of combine testing in the Sports Centre gym, modeled after the pro sports combines on which our lab members have worked. Athletes were put to the test on a variety of broad fitness measures including aerobic fitness, upper and lower body power, agility, speed and endurance. Team specific fitness measures will follow with each individual team. Some impressive performances were laid down by both male and female athletes, and in time we hope to designate the wall of fame, honouring top performances across the years. Thanks to varsity athletics for their support, Human Performance Lab members for their hard work, Coaches and testers for their time & commitment and athletes for their motivated efforts and positive attitudes. We are building something great here. We are already looking forward to next year! Varsity combine

More pictures here

Pamela Arsenault receives Mitacs Accelerate Funding!

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Dr. Pamela Arsenault, Mitacs Accelerate Post-Doctoral funding recipient

MITACSCongratulations to Dr. Pamela Arsenault who has successfully secured Mitacs Accelerate funding to support personnel and research for the work she is doing in the Human Performance and Health Research Laboratory. Great job Pam! Keep up the good work, and we eagerly look forward to releasing the results of this research!

We’re Recruiting!

cbcAs heard on this week’s CBC news report, we’re looking for  volunteers to help us out with a number of research studies.  Our work ranges from investigations on metabolism and health to physical activity and exercise studies. The time commitment, risks, benefits and compensation vary for each study, and we ask potential participants to consider what study best suits his or her own personal interests and lifestyle as a volunteer.

Below is a list of some ongoing and future projects. Please click on the links to learn more. You can email us for more information by using the contact page (see tab on main page) or contacting any of the researchers on the team.

Capsaicinoid studies

We are examining the effects of the active ingredient in hot peppers (in pill form) to alter fat burning. This may have effects on weight loss or heart health. This study involves 2 lab visits over a period of 12 weeks. People needed: 40 (20 male, 20 female), 18-45 yr old. (Click either of the following posters: poster 1 or poster 2)

We are also investigating the potential effect on exercise performance. This study involves 3 visits to the lab to 1) determine fitness and 2) to test exercise performance (on a bike) with the performance tests occurring 2 weeks apart.  Participants needed: 15 (male and female). Participants should be motivated to exercise for testing.

Contact: kbeck@upei.ca

Blood flow restriction studies

We are testing a novel type of “passive exercise” to affect adaptations. See the CBC news clip here. There are Capturemultiple potential applications of this research ranging from rehabilitative and post-operative applications, to body building and sports performance. The best part, is that we will take care of all the “work” in the workout.

We are currently undertaking two studies- the first is examining the ability of this new technique to cause changes in muscle strength and size. Participants will come to the lab 4 days per week, for 30 min per day, for 6 weeks. Body scans (fat vs muscle will be performed at QEH) and strength/endurance measured at UPEI. Participant spots: 12 male and 12 female.

We are also investigating the effects of this type of automated device to improve recovery from taxing exercise.  We are seeking athletes (cyclists/triathletes) capable of performing a short 30 sec all out sprint as well as a max exertion 10km time trial on a virtual cycling course. Click this advertisement (right) for details Recovery study poster

Contact: upeiexerciselab@gmail.com

Eccentric aerobic exercise study

This study investigates the impact of an antioxidant supplement to reduce exercise induced inflammation and speed recovery after intensive exercise. This could have implications for recovery from exercise and longer term cardiovascular health.

People needed: 40 (20 male, 20 female), 18-45 yr. old. Capable of 40min run at a moderate exercise intensity  (Downhill running)

 

Contact: upeiexerciselab@gmail.com

Old-timers hockey study

We are interested in mitigating the risk of a heart attack for hockey players (>45yr) through simple alterations to the game. We also want to better understand the characteristics of a typical game in regard to exercise intensity, shift length, number of shifts, recovery time etc. We are seeking old-timers hockey teams in the Charlottetown area who would be willing to let our research team instrument you with a non- invasive heart rate monitoring device during a regular game (2 times).

Contact: Dr. Jamie Burr (use contact page)

 Upcoming Projects:

Although we haven’t yet started accepting volunteers, we have two planned studies for the fall looking at the metabolic effects of using a standing desk workstation and also an investigation into the cardiovascular effects of “cross-fit” style exercise. Stay tuned!

 

Capsaicinoid studies

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As mentioned in an earlier post, our laboratory is preparing to undertake some new research into the possible effects of capsaicin (the ingredient in hot peppers that makes them hot!) for altering metabolism and possibly affecting exercise capacity. Whether you are a fan of hot food or not, new techniques to purify ingredients and package them in a small capsule make ingestion of the active ingredients palatable. It is possible that ingesting this concentrated form of capsaicin, without eating massive amounts of spicy food, could in turn affect the way one’s body uses stored fat and affect weight loss or increase exercise performance. This is what we seek to find out!

Dr. Pamela Arsenault a post-doctoral researcher working in the Human ycoGakacEPerformance and Health Laboratory was recently on CBC radio discussing the research.  You can here the whole interview HERE.  If you are interested (and in the Atlantic region) recruitment will be taking place spring/summer of 2014.

View our full recruitment add from the Guardian here chili_peppers_research

Advice for Potential Graduate Students….

I often do a lecture about graduate school in my Kinesiology 101 class. Although I have had many students tell me how much they appreciate this lecture, I am sure there are many subtleties of the talk go unappreciated as it is an initiation to Grad-School-Yellowa new world for most. In truth, I’m not sure that you can fully understand graduate school until you’re immersed in it, and maybe even not then. Perhaps the real clarity doesn’t come until you’ve made it through to the other side and can look back contemplatively. It is precisely for this reason that I liked the following article. Although I might not be able to completely guide students toward all the best questions and answers while searching for the optimal laboratory to work in, I feel that I should at least continue to try.

-Click the link below to open the pdf of a great piece by Sönke Johnsen from Duke -

grad school

Welcome Dr. Pamela Arsenault

The Human Performance and Health Research Laboratory is thrilled to welcome Pamela Arsenault to our laboratory as a post-doctoral researcher. This summer Dr. Arsenault will be leading two projects examining the cardiovascular and metabolic effects of capsaicinoid ingestion on human physiological function at rest and during acute exercise performance. More details on the studies to follow.  Welcome Pam!

Link to the research HERE

 

Downhill running and human arteries

born-to-runIn our quest to better understand the cardiovascular effects of long distance running, we have come to understand that certain types of prolonged running result in a stiffening of the arteries (original research here).  This was a surprising finding for us, because it is generally well accepted that participation in aerobic exercise leads to more compliant arteries, which in turn reduces the work required of the heart to pump blood.  However, while examining this effect using varying exposures of exercise and varied terrain, a pattern developed suggesting that only certain races (long ones with large elevation changes) led to a pronounced effect. We hypothesized that perhaps the added distance, intensity and (in particular) downhill segments of a course added to the stress on the body wherein the muscles are required to produce a force while lengthening. We call this an “eccentric” muscle contraction, and we know that eccentric muscle contractions are associated with increased muscle damage and soreness.

To test this theory we designed a new study, published last week in the Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport (link), to determine what happened when participants ran a relatively short distance (40 min) at a moderate pace (60% of max), but the entire run was downhill. What we found was that arterial stiffness increased following the run, and that the stiffness didn’t peak until 48hr afterwards. Interestingly, this coincided with the Style: "Neutral"participant’s peak muscle soreness (which they reported considering their discomfort in daily life and how much pressure we could apply to the muscle before it became painful). This leads us to believe that these changes may be related, and this could suggest that the effect is driven by underlying inflammation caused by the muscular damage.

Now what?  Like many new discoveries, this may have led to more questions than answers. Next, we want to understand if the inflammatory effects are local or systemic (whole body), which we can test by measuring changes in muscle swelling and certain markers in the blood. We also want to understand if this effect happens similarly to everyone, or are there ways that we can lessen the effect? For instance, are people who are more fit less susceptible to the effects because the downhill running is less stressful for their muscles? We know that muscle soreness decreases with training and repeated exposure, so this seems like a reasonable idea. We also wonder if there are other things we can do to reduce the delayed effect, like taking anti-inflammatory drugs. Lastly, we don’t yet fully understand what the arterial stiffening means in terms of overall health and wellness. Consistently stiff arteries at rest are known to increase cardiovascular risk, but we don’t yet know what the transient changes following exercise might mean for risk in the short or long term. Stay tuned.

To be clear, for now- we are not saying that exercise is bad for you. In fact, there is overwhelming evidence that exercise is good for your cardiovascular system. However, we are starting to see evidence that certain types of over-reaching exercise (i.e. the type of exercise that does not happen without serious planned effort) may start to border on “too much of a good thing.”

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Let your inner nerd watch the Olympic games too.

1391878995000-USP-Olympics-Cross-Country-Skiing-Ladies-SkiathloIf you are anything like me, you simply cant get enough of the Olympic Winter Games. I could sit on my couch the entire 16 days straight -although the irony of being so sedentary to watch sport isn’t lost on me.

So what is it about the games that is so intriguing and awe inspiring? Yes, part of the allure is the competition itself – watching the best in the world go head to head, the elite talent, the raw emotion, and the pressure of competing with so much on line. But for me, and my inner exercise physiology nerd, its also what the Olympic sports offer that you just don’t find in traditional North American sports – the display/test of the raw attributes of fitness at the highest level. In fact, I can think of no better examples of the different types of strength, endurance, and power than we are currently seeing on display.

Take, for example, the bobsled. Sure, we all think of it like NASCAR on ice, but really bobsled represents one of the most pure examples of an all out speed/power sport (CP-ATP energy system). How so? Along with the start order and ice temperature (which are beyond athlete’s directbob control) the bobsled push has been shown to account for 50% of the variance in performance. That’s right, the first 50m of pushing the sled (lasts <5sec) is amongst the biggest determinants of success. And the athletes don’t just need to be fast, they need to be strong as the sleds weight 400-500lb.

On the other end of the spectrum in the Nordic skiing sports we see pure “aerobic animals” (see Kreb’s Cycle / aerobic metabolism). Cross-country skiers have the highest VO2max scores ever recorded, and although technique/tactic is surely important, many races really come down to “who can push themselves harder for longer.” Add to that the fact that you need to propel yourself using both your upper and lower body and even compared to other long distance sports, the demands go up. During the biathlon, participants not only have to ski, but also periodically stop and shoot small targets from a distance. Being in good shape certainly helps with the skiing and also with recovery whimageen it comes time to shoot; but biathletes also use carefully timed breathing to stabilize their shots by engaging the parasympathetic nervous system and slowing their heart rate. Yeah, that’s a cool application of physiology knowledge.

And somewhere in between, we find the sports like speed skating, alpine skiing and freestyle skiing and snowboarding. These are the sports that require athletes to work at the highest possible intensity they can until their muscles are screaming at them to stop as the bi-products of anaerobic metabolism accumulate (Glycolytic pathways). Often times, these sports not only require high intensity repeated output, but also the maintenance of good form to avoid losing efficiency, style, or control -which could lead to a high consequence crash.

If you watch carefully, the Olympics will bring your textbooks to life. On the simplest level, the Olympics show that the competition is all about who can understand (and best manipulate) the science of what’s happening in the experiment that is the athlete’s body.

Ultra-marathon and arterial stiffness

trail-runnerLast week we published a paper (International Journal of Sports Medicine -link here) looking at what happens to the arteries of men who run long distances. As a quick background, it is generally well accepted that participation in most physical activities, including running, leads to more compliant (less stiff) arteries  – and this is a good thing. When the arteries are more compliant, the heart doesn’t have to work as hard, and studies have shown that stiffer arteries are associated with earlier disease and death.

However, based on some previous work my group had completed looking at participants who ran 100-200km through the Rocky Mountains, we had noticed that arterial compliance didn’t get any better, in fact, it got worse. So, we were interested in understanding what it is that makes some types of running lead to improvements and other types lead to decrements in arterial stiffness. For this particular investigation, we wanted to understand when these changes in arterial stiffness would occur and how long they lasted. One of the challenges of studying this type human response is that 1) not everyone is capable of running extremely long distances and 2) those who are, don’t really want to stop running in the middle of a race so a bunch of researchers can poke and prod them while their competition catches up or pulls away.  To add to that, bringing sensitive lab equipment in to the remote areas where these athletes are running is a logistical nightmare.

So, we decided to make our own race that circled around campus and passed by the laboratory each lap. Each runner would do 5 laps of a 15km course and after three laps (very close to marathon distance) there would be a mandatory break at thstylin 022e lab for measures. Then participants would run another 30 km and return to the lab after which time we would see what effect the additional mileage had on arteries and monitor them into recovery. We set up the ultra-marathon as a real race (with sponsors, race bibs, aid tables and prizes), which was more effective at promoting a real race mentality in the runners than even we had expected.

What did we find: this investigation seemed to suggest that the distance run is one of the factors that determines how the arteries will respond- as we initially saw arterial stiffness decrease, followed by an increase back toward non-exercise levels. Given previous research that has demonstrated that extreme or prolonged high intensity causes a temporary arterial stiffening, it seems likely that an interplay with intensity was involved as well. Perhaps, at longer distances/higher intensity the body starts be be overwhelmed by the stresses of exercise- a theory that has now led our group to examine the effects of exercise induced stress & inflammation. In particular, certain types of running and longer distances tend to induce greater amounts of cumulative muscle damage; and this, in turn, might be responsible for the stiffening we have previously reported following a really long challenging race- as well as a general stiffening in people who race these hard/long distances on a regular basis!

So, does this mean exercise is bad for you? In short, NO.  You do not need to stop exercising (or use this as an excuse to avoid starting a program if you don’t exercise now). The type of exercise used in these studies far exceeds that which a normal person could or would participate in without concerted effort to push his or her limits. At present, we also do not fully understand what the increase in arterial compliance after this type of exercise means for health or performance over the long run, or how these changes may interact with many of the known beneficial changes that are happening at the same time. It does, however, raise a lot of interesting questions….and we are excitedly following up on them! Stay tuned.

The Kids Aren’t Alright

This week there was an interesting editorial published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, which caused quite a stir (read article here). In short, the authors suggested that given our current understanding of the multitude of wide-reaching positive outcomes associated with physical activity participation, our failure as parents/society to provide adequate physical activity exposure ought to be considered child neglect. Although the reasons for today’s children and youth’s unprecedented levels of inactivity are surely multifactorial, I think that this “neglect” is (ironically) partially attributable to the fact that parents today are trying so hard to protect their children. How so, you ask?

Many of us from past generations can surely relate to spending our weekends and nights after school outside playing in the neighborhood, instructed to “come home when the lights come on”. Oddly, today this type of parenting would be looked upon by many to be “negligent” and one needs only to put on the nightly news to find a scary story to suppoCaution Children Not at playrt the belief that crime has increased and our streets aren’t as safe as they use to be (although there is evidence to suggest it is merely our media exposure to violent crime that has changed not the level of crime itself). In any event, it is clear that physical activity and the perception of danger in a neighbourhood are inversely related. So instead, kids sit “safely” in front of their television, or other screen of their choice.
Instead of risking potential physical harm, we begin to slowly ensure physiological harm through hypokinetic related chronic disease. And even when kids today DO get out to play- rules are strict, warnings abound, and parental/adult supervision is ubiquitous. In fact, as the first snow fell here in my province I heard a report that the local elementary school children were forbidden from from picking up snow for any reason. Seriously?

Kids need to take risks. They need to be challenged. They need to risk failure, and maybe even injury. Our goal as parents/guardians is to ensure these risks are moderated and appropriate to the age and maturity of our children. All of these factors are an important part of physical activity/sport/exercise on some level, and also part of learning how to avoid and control risks in life. This week, we published an article in Canadian Family Physician (which can be accessed here) exploring the idea that risk taking is important even for adults. We explore the far end of the risk taking spectrum (extreme sports) and question if there may be real value in these types of activities that are commonly overlooked as foolhardy sports for adrenaline junkies with a death-wish.

Perhaps, letting our kids fall off their bikes, scrape their knees, get hit in the face with a snowball, or in the shins with a road-hockey ball is not neglect; but preventing our kids from having the opportunity to experience these things and to reap the benefits from the associated physical activity might be. We need to work with our communities to make our neighbourhoods as safe as possible. We need to help bring back unsupervised play, and the ability for our children to walk/ride to school like they used to (safety in numbers). Most of all though, we need to recognize what the real risks are, and protect our children from our own errant beliefs, our unjustified misconceptions, and our own over-protection.

 

Cycling- what can we learn from the dutch?

I am a proud and strong supporter of cycling. Those who know me are aware that I cycle to the office on a daily basis, and encourage others to do the same for the benefits to mental and physical health (not to mention the environment or money).

My time spent in Vancouver showed me firsthand that the more cyclists there are in a city, the safer and more enjoyable it is. It would seem that drivers not only get used to sharing the road with cyclists (and thus do less unpredictable or seemingly foolish things around them), but also that most car commuters ARE ALSO cyclists and can sympathize with the other perspective. Despite the bike-friendliness of Vancouver, North American’s clearly have a long way to go to catch up to Europe where cycling is a way of life.

So what do European’s think about the state of cycling across the pond?  This video offers some interesting perspective on the way we do it (or don’t do it) and offers some useful suggestions for improvement.

Ride your bike!

“Life’s More fun when you Move”

Another video well worth watching.

What’s your motivation to move?

“We all try to be busy instead of being alive, busy instead of getting out and breathing, busy sending useless texts instead of walking in the woods with our kids or introducing them to life’s joys. We move information instead of simply moving”

“Every time I slip out of the house…to bike, hike, run or just walk for an hour, it’s a win”

-Will Gadd

How to Study

Welcome back students!  After a long summer, it’s finally time to get back to the books.

helpful-tipsAlthough midterms aren’t for a few weeks yet, its never to early to start thinking about good study habits for the coming year. Here are some good tips (which I too recommend) from Daniel Coyle, Author of “The Talent Code”.

STUDY TIPS

 

Bring back play

I am a big fan of this new ad that Canadian Tire has released as part of the bring back play initiative. We can all do something in our own communities to bring back play for children and adults alike.

 

Accept that you’re stupid so you can start acting smart

Ever sat in a lecture, laboratory, or meeting and felt like the person talking knows absolutely everything about a topic?  It can be daunting to think “I will NEVER be as knowledgeable, succesful, or creative as this person”.  stupid

But if YOU don’t know all the answers that’s ok, no one expects you to. After all, you’re stupid. You just have to accept it first before you can start moving on in your scientific career.   But don’t get me wrong, I am not suggesting that you are an idiot, just that maybe you don’t know the right answers (or even the right questions)…and maybe neither do I.

I recently came across this great article, which I had read a number of years ago, and then completely forgot about. After re-reading it, I immediately thought to share it with graduate students, but upon further reflection I realized that the ideas in THIS ESSAY by Martin Schwartz (published in the Journal of Cell Science, 2008)  apply to just about everyone. The main point of the article is that its OK if you don’t know all the answers – and even though you might feel like everyone else does…. they don’t.  Perhaps knowing and recognizing this as a student helps in getting over the hump of problem solving (or “paralysis by analysis”).  As Dr. Schwartz says “The crucial lesson was that the scope of things I didn’t know wasn’t merely vast; it was, for all practical purposes, infinite. That realization, instead of being discouraging, was liberating. If our ignorance is infinite, the only possible course of action is to muddle through as best we can.

After all, we as humans are stupid…or at least rather ignorant about the way many things around us work. Even times when we think we have something figured out, we’ve been looking at the question (and thus the answer) all wrong.  By accepting that we don’t know all the answers, we can get past worrying about this fact and seek out the information we need. I hope you enjoy the article as much as I did, and good luck trying to sort your way through life’s challenges, dummy.

Less is More

“I just don’t have time to exercise”.

Have you ever heard that before? Maybe said it yourself? Lack of time is the most commonly cited barrier to physical activity. This perception that we don’t have enough time to fit-in meaningful exercise may well explain society’s obsession with determining just how little exercise we can “get away with.”

Last month the New York Times ran an article titled “The 4-minute workout” which (like similar stories before it) was met with great enthusiasm, as it suggested that fitness could be maintained with the investment of very little time. In fact, the research on which they were reporting suggested no more than 4 min a session, three times a week was necessary.

How does this possibly work?  The most important caveat of this research is that this is not just any-old exercise, it is what we call high intensity interval training, or HIIT.  High intensity intervals are not a new concept, in fact, they have been used by elite athletes for quite some time and it is well known that the added intensity is quite effective in boosting fitness gains. What is more novel is the idea of swapping time for intensity, that is exercising very hard for a short amount of time without sacrificing efficacy. Many people who are initially excited by the prospect of exercising only 4-6 minutes a day perhaps miss the point that this exercise is performed near maximal (often about 90%), either for one continuous bout (4 min) or for multiple shorter bouts, interspersed with lighter exercise between. Despite the higher intensity of this type of exercise, current evidence suggests that it is still quite safe (see the CACR webinar I presented on HIIT in cardiac rehab here), but there is no denying that the risk goes up slightly and extra effort and motivation to push oneself is required.

Seems to good to be true doesn’t it? There must be a catch.  Not necessarily, but there are still a number of things that we do not yet understand, and some important limitations.  Firstly, it needs to be noted that the research showing improvements in fitness with only 4 min a session was done using inactive participants (who we would expect to change the most from adopting ANY exercise), and comparisons were made to other forms of interval training to determine that increases in fitness were “not different”. Although other previous research has shown comparable (and even magnified) alterations in fitness using HIIT vs traditional longer and slower exercise, we need to recognize that the generalizability of these findings to the broad population are still unclear. Furthermore, the efficacy of this style of training for people with better baseline fitness may differ. We also don’t understand the longer term effects of adopting a condensed HIIT program vs doing more traditional exercise. For example, do the findings of a relatively short research intervention actually just show us who would win a 12 week “race to fitness?” That is, does HIIT simply speed up the adaption process that “regular” training would have eventually caused if given a little more time? If it does, there is still potential value in this, but we don’t yet know or understand what will happen in the longer term, or if these changes will plateau. Drawing from elite athlete experience and HIIT, it is also plausible that burnout and injury could become an issue, but this may also be avoided based on the low volume of exercise exposure.

In short, any exercise is probably better than none, and if you are going to only invest a short amount of time (or can only find a short amount of time), you might as well bump up the intensity to get a better “bang for your buck”. It is important to understand that fitness and fatness are not necessarily the same thing- and this type of training may help you to control fitness, but not fatness. The calorie burning of this type of workout may actually be well below that of a lower intensity exercise session that can be sustained for a longer period of time. Rather than looking at the “least possible” angle, a better interpretation may be that even little bits of high intensity added to your regular program will likely add further benefits. So, why not run up the stairs when no one is looking, chase your kids and dogs around the yard at full speed, and don’t be afraid to work up a real sweat during your workout? After all, its only a few minutes.

Running Downhill Fast

Ever noticed that climbing a mountain (or stairs) is hard, but that coming back down is actually harder? On top of that, it’s the descent that makes your legs sore the next day, or the day after that. Why is this?  When coming back down, your leg muscles have to control the weight of your body while the muscle is getting longer, rather than shorter. We call this type of a muscle action an “eccentric” contraction. Interestingly, we can produce great forces using eccentric contractions, but delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) is increased.

Research shows that eccentric squat-type muscle contractions performed on an exercise machine leads to soreness, and also to inflammation. In turn, this inflammation may have some effects on the cardiovascular system. Even though these types of heavy weight eccentric contractions rarely happen outside of the weight room, they may be applied to the human body while running. Our lab is currently exploring what happens when someone runs downhill- although we’re using a downhill treadmill for safety. We want to know: does the expected inflammation and muscle soreness lead to changes in the cardiovascular system?  If so, what does this mean?  Stay tuned.

In the meantime, if you want to get involved (we are looking for runners, non-runners, fit and not fit) please contact us!