Over the years I have been asked the same question by friends, family, clients and the media, “How many days a week should someone exercise?” It is a question that I refuse to answer. The underlying reason for the question is to find the minimal amount of movement needed to keep from gaining more weight and falling apart.
It was only a few generations back when it would take weeks or even months to travel across the country; now it is measured in hours. A person would have to wait days or weeks to receive mail correspondence. In today’s modern world, time is now measured in fractions of a second. How do you feel when your internet connection is taking more than ten seconds to connect? How many nanoseconds did it take for your last Google search to occur? Are you getting frustrated because your text message took too long shooting up to outer space, almost at the speed of light, to bounce off a satellite and return back down to your friend across the bar to change your drink order? Those individuals born in the last 25 years do not know any other reality.
Because time is measured in such small increments means that more can be filled into your waking hours. It is no surprise that many people seek the least amount of time required to lose weight and get in shape. The trouble with this is that it requires high levels of intense work. This is why High-Intensity Interval Training (H.I.I.T.) has become so popular over the past decade. That type of training is best suited for the conditioned athlete who has spent years in motion. Suddenly you have people who spend the majority of their day sitting at work, home, in front of computers and other technological devices, while eating bigger portions of processed food, who seek ways to lose weight and get healthy. Can you see how dangerous this approach might be? Chronically de-conditioned and overweight populations are suddenly attending high-intensity training sessions. It is a recipe for disaster. Granted there will be many success stories which will fan the flames. However, for every success, there will be many more stories of failure, pain, and injury.
This is not to say that HIIT is bad, quite the contrary. HIIT is a fantastic tool for training & conditioning. The problem is that it is being used too much and too soon. Would you take your 1977 AMC Pacer to Laguna Seca Raceway for time trials? Sure it’s been sitting in the garage for the past few decades but do we really need to rev the engine to the red line every time it hits the road. Is that any different from workouts on The Biggest Loser? What if, instead, you were to spend just a little time every day working on tuning it up?
The trouble is not HIIT training. The trouble is the reason why it is being sought. I admit, it is a tall order to ask someone to slow down and open up just a little of each day to work on themselves. However, if you never ask how will you know if you can? Simon & Garfunkel had it right, “Slow down, you move too fast. You’ve got to make the morning last.” For those who don’t know, Simon & Garfunkel ask your parents to share their record collection with you. It’s in the garage beside the Pacer.