Be Fit For Life

with Ellen Cohen-Kaplan

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Taking a daily multivitamin- should you or shouldn’t you?

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Myths abound about the efficacy of taking a daily multivitamin. The April 12 edition of the Wall St. Journal’s Health section featured two eminent professors of medicine and epidemiology squaring off regarding this issue.  While no definitive conclusion was reached, their discussion may inform your decision.  The most conclusive evidence quoted shows a small benefit that may be offset by the risks of thinking that a multivitamin can take the place of other healthy habits.


Dr. Meir Stampfer of Harvard Medical school believes that a multi-vitamin serves as a type of low-cost, and relatively low-risk nutritional insurance.  He believes that the vast majority of Americans don’t reach optimal levels of vitamin and mineral values in their bloodstream, so a multivitamin is an inexpensive way to insure that this happens.

Many studies have shown that a large portion of Americans are deficient in two vitamins in particular; Vitamin D and vitamin B-12. It’s difficult to absorb Vitamin D from diet alone. The most effective way to produce vitamin D is to get at least 15 minutes of daily sunlight exposure to your face and arms (at a minimum) to receive the benefit. Inadequate levels of this vitamin can lead to reduced bone and muscle strength and increased risk of various cancers. Once again, this must be weighed against too much exposure to sunlight without protection, which can lead to skin cancer. Vitamin B-12 is another common deficiency in Americans. Many people over 65 have difficulty absorbing this vitamin from their diets, even if they have adequate intake, because they lack the stomach acid necessary to release B-12 from food that contains it. This is where supplements may be effective, as acid isn’t needed for B-12 absorption from pills. A lack of B-12 can contribute to nervous system disorders like neuropathy, causing pain, numbness and weakness in hands and feet.

This leads to a logical question- why not take just the supplements needed, instead of a multi-vitamin?  For instance, if you suspect you have one of these deficiencies, it’s sensible to get a lab test to determine if a specific deficiency exists. Dr. Stampfer believes that taking a preventive approach that may cover all the bases is better than taking them after damage is done. He add that you may be obtaining other vitamins that are lacking like A and B-6, which are also commonly deficient.

Dr. Stampfer admits that definitive research on multivitamins is scarce, though the one major long-term study done on 14,641 physicians over 14 years did show an 8% reduction in cancer risk, but this may be due to a variety of factors. Many physicians maintain healthy lifestyles which include exercise and a nourishing diet , and it’s hard to separate confounding factors. He maintains that the safety and low cost of multi-vitamins offset the minor risks. The major issue Stampfer sees are that people may pay less attention to the lifestyle modifications that we know improve quality and longevity of life, such as exercise, a healthy diet, and avoidance of smoking and excessive alcohol intake.

Dr. Eliseo Guillar of Johns Hopkins University offers the flip side of multivitamin use. He maintains that there is sparse evidence of their efficacy, which was concluded from a broad review of data from many studies. He sees no consistent evidence of a beneficial effect on cardiovascular disease or cancer, or mortality on individuals who have no known nutritional deficiencies. Dr. Guillar says that a balanced diet is a much more effective way to absorb all the vitamins and minerals that we need. Although having a balanced diet is not always easy, multivitamins are not a panacea for this problem. As for the commonly seen deficiencies in Vitamin B-12 and Vitamin D, he believes that laboratory testing is the only sure way to know whether these deficiencies exist in an individual, and if you have one, you should take supplements to address the specific problem. If you believe that a multivitamin addresses the problem, you may delay getting to a clinician who can address the actual problem thoroughly, delaying proper treatment.

Guillar’s thesis is that energy, time and effort are better spent on encouraging and motivating people to eat a diet rich in vegetables, fruits, seeds, nuts, whole grains, legumes and lean proteins like fish and chicken. It’s important to limit processed foods like meats, cheese, salt and sugary snacks and drinks and insure that your food is nutrient-rich. Consistent exercise and maintaining a weight within 5-10 pounds of your ideal weight is key.  Guillar maintains that “Controlling well-established risk factors such as blood pressure, cholesterol and glucose levels is an effective way for individuals to reduce the risk of disease” .



There are a few other considerations regarding multivitamin use.  Since there’s little FDA oversight of their manufacture, they may not contain the potency values listed on the bottle. Also, taking a multi-vitamin when unnecessary will just result in expensive urine – excretion of most of what you ingest. It’s always a good idea to consult with your doctor if you begin taking a multivitamin and have a medical condition that would contraindicate its use. Taking more than the stated dosage, or in combination with other vitamins and supplements can also result in unwanted side effects. Too much of certain vitamins may be harmful.

So, what’s the take-away?  If you suspect you have a vitamin deficiency, manifested by excessive fatigue, numbness, muscle weakness, or other noticeable symptoms, you should get lab tests to determine if you actually have one, or if these symptoms are a result of another disorder.  If you do have a vitamin deficiency, a nutritionist or physician can prescribe the right diet or supplements to help your specific condition. If you’ve been taking multivitamins, have no adverse effects, and believe they help you stay strong and healthy, continue, but know that you will excrete whatever is not needed. If you eat a healthy diet, and have none of the above symptoms, you likely do not need to begin taking one. Getting adequate sunlight, eating a diet rich in the foods mentioned earlier, controlling risk factors through regular check-ups with a physician, and last but not least, regular exercise are your best bets for long-term health and longevity.

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What types of exercise benefit your brain the most?


In this blog, you frequently read about the many ways that exercise benefits your mind and body. But are there certain types of exercise that can cause brain matter to respond more positively than others?  I’ve always advocated cross-training, which is any combination of cardiorespiratory, strength training, stretching or balancing exercises. Cross-training may include running, cycling, dancing, weight training, core strengthening (like pilates), and yoga. A new study has examined the effects of dance on the brain, specifically in the white matter, and the results are promising.

The white matter of the brain include the nerve fibers, called axons, which pass information between our neurons in the brain and spinal cord. As we age, there is a fraying of the brain’s internal wiring, which causes changes in memory and processing speed, among other functions.

The study, conducted by University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, took 174 healthy, but mostly sedentary, subjects between the ages of 60-79, and gave them pre- and post-tests of aerobic capacity and cognitive processing speed, measured by MRI. They were then divided into 4 groups and tasked with doing some form of physical activity 3 times a week for one hour. One group did brisk walking, another did brisk walking and took a nutritional supplement (beta-alanine), a third group performed strength, balance and stretching exercises, and the fourth group did country dancing, where they learned choreography set to music. The dance activity combined step sequencing with social interaction, as people switched partners, changed directions, and the group moved themselves into various formations.

For the full article see

The results yielded some expected, and some unexpected results. Expected changes were that all the participants showed some improvement in the integrity of certain structures in the brain. The unexpected results were that declines were seen over just 6 months in the quality of white matter, but this did not necessarily correlate with cognitive changes. Other unexpected changes were that the dance group showed the most substantial improvements, particularly in one aspect of the white matter, which has to do with processing speed.

The most substantial changes were seen in the fornix, which plays an “important role in the encoding, consolidation, and recall of declarative and episodic memory.” Along with episodic memory (Metzler-Baddeley et al., 2011), it also influences “working memory, motor performance and problem solving (Zahr et al., 2009)”  The full study, complete with the neurological analysis, can be seen at This article also details previous studies that compared the effect of various exercise regimens on brain structure and function.

The take-away is this: people who do less sitting and more moderate-to-vigorous physical activity on a consistent basis showed “less negative change in the FA (one measure of structural brain health) providing the first evidence of objectively measured lifestyle activities on change in white matter health.”

More specifically, activities like dance that combine physical, cognitive, and social aspects, seem to have a greater impact on one’s overall mental state. Dance also incorporates sensorimotor aspects, such as audio, visual, vestibular (balance) and kinesthetic (movement); these are based components that together have a mitigating effect on depression and memory loss. If you like to dance, maybe it’s time to incorporate it into your routine. Your brain and booty will thank you for it!

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Why you should care about your posture, and what you can do to improve it


Gone are the days when the reminder to stand or sit up straight came directly from your teacher or parent. What will take the place of those all important cues to improve your posture and reap the many benefits? In the 1950s and 60s, it was actually part of the school curriculum to practice good posture by walking with shoulders back, head held high, and eyes gazing straight ahead. I wonder how doomed this generation, and the rest of us, who use smartphones and hunch over computers for many hours a day will be when we have to deal with the aftermath of these bad habits.  I see people staring at their devices while crossing busy streets, their heads at right angles to their necks, and worry for both driver and pedestrian. Beyond the dangers of the oblivion that too much attention to devices cause, lie the problems of neck, shoulder and back pain that are a frequent result of these positions.

You’ve all heard that good posture makes you look better, younger, and slimmer (as if that’s not enough motivation) but did you know that it also can improve mood, self-perception and energy? A multitude of experiments have been done that examine how posture affects quality of life. One study out of San Francisco State and Kaohsiung Medical University in Taiwan concluded that subjects who assumed slouched postures reported a drop in energy levels.  Another experiment looked at the interplay of posture and success at job interviews.  Amy Cuddy, the “power posture” guru, and Northwestern University’s Adam Galinsky and Li Huang, found that the effect of good posture superseded the effect of role, work experience or qualifications when interviewing for jobs. Another positive effect of good posture is that it improves breathing capacity. Pulmonary function is least restricted in the upright posture, and better in standing than sitting. When you lean against a seat back, your low back is in a flexed position, which also reduces lung function.


Finally, when researchers at Ohio State University and the Autonomous University of Madrid  asked students to write their best and worst attributes while they assumed either a slumped or upright posture, the slouched students rated themselves lower and expressed less confidence than the upright ones. This has interesting implications for which comes first, – reduced confidence, then slouching, or does slouching lead to feelings of less confidence?

Poor posture is caused by the convergence of several factors: tight pectoral (chest) muscles, weakened and overstretched upper back and posterior neck muscles, rounded shoulders and upper back muscles (which causes tightness and weakness), and tight hip flexor muscles.


But, fear not! Some simple exercises can make a difference in reducing tightness and improving strength in all the right places. All of these are best done standing, except when otherwise indicated.

  • Chest muscle massage – Stretch out tight chest muscles by rolling your shoulders back and down,  make a fist with your right hand and press your knuckles into the pectoral muscle which is just to the right of the your left armpit and to the left of your right armpit. Use a circular motion to find any soreness in that muscle, covering an area of about 4 inches. If you feel soreness in this area, it means your pectoral muscles need the stretch and massage.

  • Shoulder external rotation – Roll your shoulders back and down, try to keep your back neutral position, and move the wrists until your palms face forward  and your thumbs point away from your body. Hold for 5 seconds, release and repeat.

  • Chin tuck – stand up against a wall with hips and shoulders touching the wall, allowing your natural spinal curves to remain in place (low back and back of neck will not touch the wall). With heels 2-3 inches from the wall, lift through the top of your head, while bringing your chin down toward the throat, simultaneously pressing the back of your head against the wall for just a few seconds. If you need to use a pillow for the back of your head so it reaches the wall, do so,  and don’t strain. Limit this exercise to repetitions of 3, and don’t press for too long against the wall, as neck muscles can be delicate.

  • Kneeling hip flexor stretch – Get in a kneeling lunge position, with one knee cushioned on the floor and the other knee bent 90 degrees in front of you with foot flat on the floor. Be sure to lift the crown of your head toward the ceiling and keep your spine long and upright, driving the hip of the kneeling leg forward to achieve the stretch. You can also gently move the back leg further back to intensify the stretch, and repeat several times as needed.

  • Hip hinge- Bend from the hips, placed outstretched arms on a back of a chair to make a 90 degree angle with your body. Make your back as flat as possible, by lifting your tailbone, moving your hips back, and keeping your arms in your shoulder sockets. If you can, remove your arms from the chair, and bring them out to the side, maintaining your flat back. If this is too stressful, do one arm at a time, and lift and lower, squeezing your shoulder blades together as you lift slightly.

One of the primary causes of poor posture is increased use of technology. However, technology also offers some solutions. Below are some technological posture aids to remind you when you’re slouching.

  1.  Lumo lift- This is a small wearable device on which you set your target position. It vibrates gently when you slouch, and can connect to a smartphone via a free app. It can log posture hours, steps taken and calories burned. Check it out at .

  2.  The Work Break Timer- Stand Up! – This free app through your smartphone allows you to set alarms that remind you to take breaks throughout the day. Go to the app store and find .

  3. Alex Posture- Alex hooks onto the ears and rests on the neck at the base of the skull to assess head and neck position. The device vibrates if the head droops out of its optimal position – based on user setting – for longer than 2 minutes. You can also track your progress through the Alex App. Go to .

  4. UPRIGHT – this device attaches to the small of the back to help you train the back muscles to hold proper alignment for extended periods of time. It will also vibrate if you slouch. Check out .

  5. ZIKTO – Worn on the wrist, ZIKTO walk helps maintain good posture when walking. Through a series of motion sensors, the device analyzes your walking patterns and vibrates gently if the wrist moves out of predetermined alignment parameters. See .

The above exercises and tech tools are excerpts from the IDEA fitness journal, April 2017. See  for some more reading on the subject.

A few caveats of using these postural aids is that even if you use them regularly, it’s best to try to tune in to your body, and be aware of where your own body is in space. Your muscle memory will kick in after you improve your postural habits if you remain conscious of your slouching, and soon, it will become easier to stand and sit up straight.

With help from equipment-free exercises and the above technological aids, you can improve not only posture, but your overall sense of wellbeing. And, just think, wouldn’t your parents be proud!

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Anti-aging exercise: What does the latest study say?


A recent research study shed some light on a specific type of exercise that will keep you physiologically younger. We all know that cardio, weight lifting, stretching and balance and core training are essential to maintain an active lifestyle well into old age.  But is there a type of exercise in particular that can actually make your cells respond like those of someone who is much younger? 

Researchers at the Mayo institute wanted to find out how different types of exercise impact cellular aging, in specific, mitochondria, which are the powerhouses of our cells.

They took 72 sedentary participants who were younger than 30, and older than 65 and measured their baseline aerobic capacity, blood sugar regulation, gene activity and mitochondrial health. The subjects were randomly divided into 4 groups. “Some of them did vigorous weight training several times a week; some did brief interval training three times a week on stationary bicycles (pedaling hard for four minutes, resting for three and then repeating that sequence three more times); some rode stationary bikes at a moderate pace for 30 minutes a few times a week and lifted weights lightly on other days. A fourth group, the control, did not exercise.” All the exercising groups showed gains in fitness levels, blood sugar regulation and mitochondrial health, but the differences between the groups was striking. 

The group that did interval training showed the most substantial gains, and from this subgroup, the people over 64 showed the sharpest percentage of increase in both the number and the activity of their mitochondria.  This finding implicates that what may have been thought of as inevitable – that the decline in muscle strength as we age, can be corrected through exercise. As always, a few caveats are in order. The sample size was small, although the experiment was repeated after 12 weeks, with similar results. Also,  subjects’ genetic make-up was not taken into account. However, the findings warrant attention and the need for further studies regarding the efficacy of interval training. 

For the full article, go to

While all exercise is useful, it’s instructive that the very foundation of what causes us to get weaker as we age can be substantially altered by doing consistent cardio interval training. So what are the implications for you? What if you are a consistent walker, but have never done intervals before?  What’s the best way to begin?

Start by gradually working your way up. If you ramp up too quickly, you’re at risk for shin splints, tendinitis, and/or muscle cramps.    Increasing your periods of intense activity incrementally will ensure that you mitigate these problems and allow you to gradually improve your cardio capacity. Refer back to the Record of Perceived Exertion in my last blog post, shooting for a level of 7-8 for the high intensity intervals.

Try the following regimen:

  1. 20 minute walk with 4 minutes of moderate pace, 30 seconds of much faster pace, repeat for 4-5 cycles
  2. 20 minute walk with 3.5 minutes of moderate pace, 30 seconds of faster pace, repeat 4-5 cycles
  3. 20-25 minute walk with 3.5 of moderate pace, 45 seconds of faster pace, repeat for 5-6 cycles
  4. 25-30 minute walk with 3 minutes of moderate pace, 45 seconds of faster pace, repeat for 5-6 cycles
  5. 25-30 minute walk with 3 minutes of moderate pace, 1 minute of fast pace, repeat for 6-7 cycles

The regimen above applies if you are just starting out. If you’ve been a consistent walker with intervals of higher intensity, go for intervals of high intensity for 2, 3 or 4 minutes, alternating with 3 minutes of moderate intensity.

I recommend doing each level for at least 3 days before attempting the next level. Note also that in the study, the interval training was done on stationary cycles, which are easy on the joints, and on which it is very easy to ramp up speed with few ill effects. Also, the interval training consisted of 4 minutes of vigorous cycling, with 3 minutes of moderate cycling, so working up to longer periods of vigorous intervals is important.

So what’s the take-away?  See if you can include interval training in your exercise regimen, shooting for a perceived exertion level of  7-8 for the higher intensity.  Your mitochondria will respond with youthful exuberance!

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Rethinking target heart rate

images                 multiply the above numbers by 6 to get your target heart rate per minute


As you know, there’s an overabundance of health and fitness advice out there.  Sometimes, the  common-sense  and least sexy advice  is what can  best guide your workout    regimen. Determining your  target  heart rate is a good  example of that.  In the early days  of fitness training,  the formula  of subtracting your age  from 220,  multiplied by .75-.85,  would  bring you to your ideal heart  rate.  This is now known to be just a  rough estimate of your true  target  heart rate, and can vary  anywhere    from 10-20 beats per  minute.

First of all, you need to know  your  resting heart rate to  determine your  goal for an  intense workout.  Take  your resting heart rate first thing in the morning when you awaken, before you get out of bed. If you do this at least 3 days during a week, and take the average, it will be the most accurate. Put your index and middle finger at the base of your thumb, on the right side of your left wrist to feel for your pulse, then count for 15 seconds, multiply by 4, or  for 10 seconds, and multiply by 6. If your resting rate is below 60, then your target rate will be very different than if your resting heart rate is in the 80s. It’s important to take this measure when you are relaxed, and not in the  middle of the day, or when you’re thinking about all the tasks you need to accomplish. Average heart rates for adults vary from 60-90, but average in the 70-80s. If you are a trained athlete or you have a genetic predisposition toward a lower rate, then your heart rate may be in the 50s. Keep in mind that medication, especially beta-blockers, will lower your heart rate, and your emotional state also has a sizable effect .

Go to this article to learn more –

See this link for an accurate heart rate calculator: .

This heart rate calculator, in combination with the Record of Perceived Exertion, or RPE, is an excellent measure of your target heart rate, because it takes into account your subjective experience of your workout. This RPE scale was also found to be correlated highly with your target heart rate. Here’s the RPE scale, which was condensed from a 0-20 Borg scale of perceived exertion:

1 – Very, very light
2 – Light, very easy
3 – Easy, can converse very little effort
4 – Somewhat easy, you still talk fairly easily
5 – Starting to get challenging
6 – Challenging, conversing requires effort
7 – Increasingly difficult, possibly beginning to sweat
8 – Very difficult, conversing becoming almost impossible
9 – Very, very difficult, can’t speak
10 – All out, maximum effort, cannot sustain this level for more than 10-15 seconds

When you are doing interval training and trying to increase your endurance, shoot for  a level of between 5-8 for short sprints, and try not to drop below 3 for your resting and recovery periods.

Begin at lower levels of exertion, working at about 50% of your ability in the 2-4 range, then gradually ramp up your effort to the 5-8 range. Your heart rate should be in that 75-85% of your maximum range, so if you are 60, your range will be somewhere in the 120-136 range. Now combine that with your subjective sense of exertion. Can you talk while exercising?  Are you sweating?  How much muscle fatigue are you feeling?  These parameters differ greatly among individuals, with some people feeling muscle fatigue well before they feel breathless, and others feeling the opposite. What’s important to know is how YOU feel as you’re exercising, and be sure to heed any warning signs, such as faintness, dizziness or nausea. Shoot for pushing yourself to higher levels of exertion while staying within some semblance of your comfort (and I use this word loosely) zone.

One of the most common errors I see in training regimens, particularly as people age, is that they are not working to capacity, because of fear that they may overdo it. I see more people under-doing it, and not getting the benefit from all the time they put in.

Take a moment to ponder your exercise regimen. Are you getting all you should from it? Are you seeing improvement in your performance of daily tasks?  Are you free from chronic pain in your back and your joints, especially after stretching?  Do you know what to do for relief when you do feel muscle aches or pains?

It may be time to reassess and experience the many advantages of the cardio, brain, bone and muscle benefits you can derive from a workout that has the right intensity for you.

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What does “epic”mean to you?


What does “epic” mean to you?  In these days of overused hyperbole, like ” extreme” when describing things as mundane as hobbies, and “decadent” when describing chocolate desserts, and “incredible” when describing a good experience, seeing the word “epic” at the ski lift gave me pause. ” What makes you “epic”?” The sign at the entrance to the chair lift begged for an answer laced with hyperbolic adjectives. I came up blank. Watching my 3 sons fly down the expert slopes looked epic to me, but nothing I did in the 3 days of our skiing felt epic. Then I began to think of the word in  terms of a continuum, rather than a one time description. One could say that gathering all 3 of our peripatetic sons for a 4 day vacation, skiing effortfully down the expert slopes to keep up with my sons, and having a fairly smooth vacation with our whole family was “epic”, but that would be a relative use of the word. Herein lies my point. What if we thought of epic as it applies to us, our circumstances and that messy thing that we call our everyday lives, with all its zigs and zags?

Maybe you had an epically good day, when all went right. Maybe you had an epic battle for sleep the previous night, but went to work, or babysat grandchildren in spite of that? Maybe you had or are having an epically difficult time raising children, but they’re doing well or heading in the right direction at this point in time? What if we reframed our minor and major victories with mundane or common events as really epic, instead of lucky?

I remember when my boys were small and each thought he was the best  athlete on his respective team. This inflated sense of their ability began to wane around age 9 or 10, when they began to get a more realistic sense of their talents. I remember being relieved,  along with being  a little sad that this signaled the next stage of development, marked by a more accurate sense of self. As we age, we can either feel that the ship of doing anything epic has sailed, or that the tasks that formerly were easy, but now consume more time and energy, are epic in and of themselves.

So, maybe it’s time for a reframing of what you accomplish In a day. Just as I took Park City Mountain Resort’s invitation to name what I do as epic, I’m inviting you to re-frame some of your life’s activities as epic. It’s one way to allow yourself to stop and think about the  effort and meaning you infuse into your chosen way of life. There are many other ways, of course, including meditation, journaling, and even having heart-to-heart talks with loved ones.

Tomorrow may be an opportune day to be reflective, since we’ll all be snowbound.  What might you do that’s epic?

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What kind of exerciser are you?

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Much has been written about the efficacy of high-intensity interval training (HIIT). The reason for its rise in popularity is that it is purported to be very effective, and takes much less time than a typical workout. Average HIIT times range anywhere from 7-12 minute workouts  3 times a week. It’s important to find a way to max out your heart rate for the needed intensity, while minimizing your risk for injury.

A recent study undertaken by the American Council of Exercise examines just how effective HIIT programs really are, as compared to other, more moderate regimens. Healthy, mostly sedentary subjects between the ages of  18-28 were divided into 3 groups that were given 3 different exercise programs. Although they all did the same warm-up and cool-down, the programs varied greatly.  The following table explains the groups’ exercise regimens:

“Steady-state Group: 20 minutes of continuous exercise at 90 percent of the individual’s ventilatory threshold (Foster and Cotter, 2005). This fits into the moderate-to-vigorous intensity category, as defined by the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM, 2014).

Tabata Group: This is very brief, very high-intensity interval training consisting of four minutes (eight sets) of exercise consisting of 20 seconds of work (at 170 percent of the individual’s peak aerobic power) paired with 10 seconds of unloaded pedaling (Tabata et al., 1996).

Meyer Group: This is moderate-intensity interval training consisting of 20 minutes (13 sets) of 30-second work intervals (100 percent of the individual’s peak aerobic power) paired with 60 seconds of activity recovery (Meyer et al., 1990).”

For the full article, see

The results were instructive.  All 3 exercise groups saw sizable changes in  measures such as their VO2 max, a measure of  “the maximum amount of oxygen the body can utilize during a specified period of usually intense exercise” (Merriam Webster) , and other aerobic capacity indicators. No significant changes were seen across groups. Ratings in the exercise enjoyment scale (EES) declined over all 3 groups, most dramatically for the Tabata, which was the highest intensity group.

HIIT programs mandate 100% of effort over several short intervals, which many subjects found unpleasant and therefore were less compliant. The lack of follow-through by the high intensity group begs the question of the efficacy of this type of exercise. It’s obvious that no goals will be reached if you fall off the exercise wagon. The most effective program is the one that you stick with, because it’s enjoyable, accessible and you don’t dread doing it. However, if you are one who doesn’t mind an all-out effort in a shorter period of time, and you do it consistently, you can benefit from many choices of HIIT programs now available.

Take this quick survey to find out what type of exerciser you are:

  1. Do you enjoy the outdoors and are you more likely to take a longer hike than hop on a cardio machine for a shorter period?
  2. Have you been engaged in bike rides, walks or runs longer than half an hour and enjoyed it enough to continue this routine for many years?
  3. Have you done very intense, (close to 100%) effort interval training such as cardio conditioning, boot camp or spin classes and done them for longer than 6 months?
  4. Have you tried doing a high intensity, shorter program and liked it?
  5. Are you more likely to work out in a group, with a partner or trainer, or by yourself?

Your answers will give you a good idea of  your inclinations. If you’ve never done a shorter, more intense workout, it’s worth a try.  The 7 minute Johnson and Johnson workout app, which is free and easy to download,  is a good start.

Another way to tackle the exercise regimen question is to mix it up by doing cross-training, which is a combination of different types of exercise and activity. Cross training affords rest for certain muscle groups, while activating others, and is a sure bet for keeping different muscles strong and in balance. For example, you may attend a strength and conditioning class a few days a week, dance class on another day, and a cardio machine and/or interval walking on other days. Additionally, trying new physical challenges will keep it interesting.

The take-away is simple; in order to stick with a program, it must be tailored to your individual needs and likes. High intensity interval programs take less time, but are not necessarily more effective than more moderate programs. All the exercise programs increased subjects’ physical fitness across measures of cardio capacity, no matter what the variation. Most importantly, you must find one that will be safe and enjoyable and accomplishes your goals without putting your body at risk.