Last Updated on April 30, 2017 by Michael Brockbank
The term “intense” when related to fitness can be a subjective one. What one person can view as a merciless workout, another could view it as basic. In reality, it’s a person’s physique that will determine whether an exercise is intense. While more focused routines can be greatly beneficial, they do often come with greater risks. However, your goals for fitness may be the most contributing factor when considering intensive workouts.
Benefits of Intense Workouts
A lot of media and fitness experts attest to how an intensive workout is the most effective when building endurance and muscle mass. While some studies show that these kinds of fast-paced exercises are effective in the short-term, keep in mind the data behind the science is quite limited. Here are some of the most common benefits some people have been reporting from an intense workout.
Some report how High Intensity Interval Training, or HIIT, can speed the metabolism of an individual. According to several articles, you can boost the metabolic rate by almost 450% by concentrating more on intensive routines. Although I can’t seem to find that exact number anywhere in science, a study on HIIT did demonstrate improvement of glucose and lipid metabolism. If you know where the exact study can be found, feel free to send me a message.
When You’re Short on Time
One of the most common things people love about HIIT is that you can get a full workout in a very short amount of time. Currently, there is a one-minute intense workout theory spreading across the Internet, which I am having difficulty validating. The study that everyone seems to cite from PLOS One says nothing about a 60-second exercise being all you need in a day. Regardless, I’ve already proven how you can increase calorie burn by keeping yourself more active for a shorter duration of time. I plan on getting all scientific in future demonstrations.
Greater Calorie Burn
Like I said before, you can easily burn more calories and fats by increasing movement. For example, I can increase the effectiveness of my walk by doing a 16-minute mile as opposed to a 22-minute mile. From what I’ve experienced personally, an intensive workout can easily burn more because it increases your heart rate to a much higher degree than a slower exercise. Your body is utilizing more resources in a shorter amount of time to sustain the activity.
What Risks are Related to High Intensity Workouts?
Not a lot of scientific data exists about the ramification of HIIT over a long period of time. In the short-term, it looks as though intense training can be very beneficial. However, it’s not without it’s own level of concerns.
Risk of Physical Injury
Trying to do too much can easily lead to a greater risk of injury. When your body lacks strength and ability, pushing yourself can dislocate joints or even result in tearing muscle mass. Case in point, I pushed to complete a 5k while weighing 280 pounds while maintaining a 16-minute mile. I developed metatarsal stress fractures in both feet. Instead of working myself into it slowly and building up my body first, I was off my feet for a few weeks.
When you try to push yourself beyond your limitations, it can be easy to hurt yourself something fierce. I’ve seen people dislocate joints, tear muscles and tendons and experience asthma attacks simply by trying to increase their exercise routines. Even I suffered an extreme drop in blood pressure by trying to do too much all at once.
Heart Failure or Stroke
Not everyone can physically handle an intense workout. For example, Andrew Marr, host of the BBC Two’s Andrew Marr Show, suffered a severe stroke believed to be a result of high-intensity training. And he’s not the only one. A slew of people have suffered similar experiences just from regular exercise. In fact, you can find a lot of information regarding exercise and complications from credible sources online.
On the other hand, the information I’ve gathered demonstrates how intensive training can help strengthen the heart over time. Because there is a mountain of contradictory information for heart health and HIIT, I would come to the conclusion that the risks for heart complications is dependent on the current health of the individual. For instance, you wouldn’t want to subject yourself to an intensive workout if you’ve spent a large part of your life being obese.
Should You Focus on Intense Workouts?
While there is certainly a lot of information out there that is convincing, I still believe an intense workout is dependent on the individual. Athletes have been doing these types of exercise routines since the early 1900s. However, current studies are lacking when it comes to delivering results regarding the average Joe. One particular study only included young men without examining the effects of intense training on women or the elderly.
Knowing Your Goals
If you’re seriously considering a more intensive workout, it may be prudent to examine your goals. Are you looking to lose some weight, build muscle mass or simply feel better about yourself? I personally don’t hold much stock in HIIT and probably won’t subject myself to the experience. I don’t believe in the “quick-fix” approach to health, and I rather enjoy taking longer to achieve my goals while learning more about the human body. Remember, I’ve already suffered a couple of setbacks because of increasing exercise intensity.
If you’re already an athlete who wants to get into better shape, then perhaps HIIT is right or you. Since your body is already acclimated to certain exercises, you may experience less risk. Unfortunately, there is just not enough available scientific research to support long-term benefits. Just bare in mind that there is such a thing as over-exerting yourself during workouts. Knowing your limitations will help prevent injury to yourself.
Any Exercise is Better Than Nothing at All
In reality, any exercise is better than nothing at all. Too many people are comfortable sitting in front of the television or computer monitor. Anything beyond your normal routine will undoubtedly improve your health. How much of a benefit will depend on how much activity you get in your day.