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by Casey McIlvaine

Although exercise and fitness regimens should be a part of every person’s life, the type of regimen and its intensity are highly specific to each person. Fitness experts are working hard to promote health while also making it clear that rest, recovery, and periodization (smartly modifying intensity based on goals, performance, and ability) are absolutely crucial to optimal performance.

The trend towards ever higher intensity training (HIT) workouts is not inherently a bad thing, but neither is it an across-the-board good thing. Not everyone can benefit from HIT, and in fact for many it may not be as healthy as they think. From chronic exhaustion, an increased prevalence for injury, disease and dysfunction to a lack of general happiness and wellbeing, negative view of working out, and a general lack of sustainability are all potential problems with HIT if not properly applied to the right time and the right individual.


The true purpose of working out and an exercise regimen can get lost in the no-pain-no-gain mentality of some of the HIT programs and proponents where preventable suffering becomes a cornerstone. The core reality of an exercise regimen is that it must first have a truly positive effect on your overall health and happiness while being designed for sustainability over the long haul.

The key to any good exercise regimen is sustainability, which opens up a great deal of options for people of all health, age and skill levels. All of these options begin with learning about the body and what it takes to nourish, strengthen, and heal it.

A British Medical Journal study from just several years ago provides the basis for an understanding that the benefits of HIT may not outweigh the benefits of moderate exercise for everyone. In fact, the study focuses on the high probability that it can have a negative impact on life expectancy for those in middle age. The study looked at nearly 10,000 former Olympic athletes that engaged in high intensity activities such as cycling, boxing, rowing and other sports and found that they did not live longer than those engaging in low intensity sports such as golf and cricket.


The takeaway is that regular moderate exercise as part of an ongoing fitness regimen can may be more advisable and on the whole provide equal health benefits as HIT without the risks of injury depending on factors like age and health status. For those working with a personal trainer, or on their own, the canvas of possibilities can be broadened to include a variety of fun activities that contribute to our health and wellbeing. Everything from dancing to biking can become part of a fitness regimen that yields benefits in terms of health as well as happiness and enjoyment.


This is not to say that reaching fitness goals will not require some greater level of intensity in terms of an exercise regimen. It merely means that it is imperative that we all learn the signs that our bodies are giving us about limits. Only then can we learn when to push ourselves a little farther and when to back off and let our bodies recuperate and rest. This is often why people engage a personal trainer to help them create a balanced approach to exercise that fits their needs and goals while helping them learn what their body is telling them.


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