High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) for Anxiety, Depression, and Fitness
I started doing high-intensity interval training because I don’t like to exercise. Does this sound like a paradox? Let me explain. I used to mostly avoid exercise. For relaxation I would much rather read a book than exercise. Then, about four years ago I had a heart attack. After my cardiologist put a stent in a blocked artery he told me that regular exercise would strengthen my heart and help protect me against future heart problems. Let’s just say I got the message. I was very motivated to look into fitness and exercise options.
It turns out that there is a fairly new option that’s great for people like me – people who don’t like to take time to exercise but still need to do it.
This option is called High-intensity Interval Training (HIIT).
The basic message is this:
- You don’t have to exercise for long if you exercise very vigorously.
- 30 minutes per week of high intensity exercise has the same fitness benefit as 150 minutes of traditional cardio.
- High-intensity training lowers heart disease risk and blood pressure, and it protects against Type 2 diabetes.
- High-intensity training also yields important mental health benefits. It helps to reduce symptoms of stress, anxiety, depression, and obsessive-compulsive disorder.
There is also evidence that high-intensity training helps prevent the recurrence of anxiety and depression symptoms.
Here is a TED Talk about high-intensity exercise.
To help get you started this website will help, and has a fitness calculator; a heart rate calculator, and instructions for a 7 week fitness program.
I also recommend Dr. Martin Gibala, from McMaster University in Hamilton. He has coauthored a very useful book about high-intensity interval training. It is: The One Minute Workout. His Twitter feed is: @gibalam. Here is a YouTube interview with Dr. Gibala. The interview starts at about 6:00 minutes into the video.
When I first started exercising I used the exercise protocols is this book: The Burst Workout, by Sean Foy. Here is a Youtube video about his program.
I got motivated to start exercising because I did not want to have another heart attack. I have since discovered that exercise is also a great mood booster. Check out this YouTube video for a good book and program if you want to use exercise to treat anxiety or depression.
Here are 2 more short videos about exercise and depression:
A Final Thought: If you feel discouraged, overwhelmed or scared about the idea of exercising, there is still hope for you. It is fine to start small, even if that just means a 10 minute stroll. After my heart attack I was out of shape and scared. But, day by day I made progress. You can too.
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