High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) for Anxiety, Depression, and Fitness

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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