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Shorter, high-intensity workouts offer the same benefits as longer, moderate ones — here’s how to get started and how it could transform your body

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  • High-intensity workouts are some of the best ways to improve health and athletic performance.
  • With a short, intense interval workout, researchers have found that some people see benefits equal to or better than those from conventional exercise routines.
  • Here’s how to get started.

If you want to make the most of a short span of time for working out, consider a high-intensity workout.

With brief bouts of high-intensity interval training, it’s possible to achieve or even exceed the physical benefits that people get from spending much longer periods of time working out.

“Time is everything for people,” Jason Barone, a clinical director at an organization called Professional Physical Therapy, previously told Business Insider. “High-intensity training is kind of perfect for the busy schedule — you don’t need a gym, you can do it at your home, you’re looking at about a 20- to 30-minute workout.”

When Barone and other trainers talk about high-intensity workouts, a number of activities qualify. The basic idea is that people work out at close to full-on intensity for short periods of time instead of doing longer workouts at more moderate, 50-70% exertion levels. Some of these workouts include short sprints, some involve circuits of body-weight exercises, and others use weights or kettlebells.

High-intensity training is not always better than a more traditional exercise routine. There are good reasons to do longer workouts — they can help your body adapt to achieve certain fitness goals, such as preparing your joints and muscles for the strain of a long race like a marathon. But intense workouts are often the best way for athletes to improve performance.

They can have powerful effects on health too, helping people rev up metabolism to burn fat, lower blood pressure, and more.

Here’s why you might want to give high-intensity training a try — and what you can do to get started.

Even extremely small amounts of all-out effort — just one minute — can have powerful effects on overall fitness.


Even extremely small amounts of all-out effort — just one minute — can have powerful effects on overall fitness.play

Even extremely small amounts of all-out effort — just one minute — can have powerful effects on overall fitness.

(Shutterstock)

In one small study published in 2016, researchers had a group of men do workouts consisting of three 20-second bursts of all-out exertion, with some warm-up, cool-down, and rest in between sets. The results suggested those participants’ fitness levels improved as much as those of men who worked out for 45 minutes at moderate intensity.

Both groups showed almost a 20% gain in one measurement of the body’s ability to use oxygen — called VO2 peak — which the authors use to represent cardiorespiratory fitness. There was also a dramatic improvement in how all participants’ bodies handled blood sugar. The men in both groups also had a dramatically increased mitochondrial count in their muscles, a sign of good cellular function.

The difference is that one group got their workouts done much more quickly.

Muscles respond to sprint intervals in the same way they do to longer workouts.


A fitness instructor leads a SoulCycle class at their Union Square location in New York, April 13, 2011.play

A fitness instructor leads a SoulCycle class at their Union Square location in New York, April 13, 2011.

(REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton)

One recent small study published in the American Journal of Physiology had eight young adults complete three cycling workouts in a randomized order over the period of three weeks.

One was a moderate intensity cycle at about 50% of maximum effort for 30 minutes; the second involved going at 75% of max effort for four minutes at a time four times, with one minute rest between each; and the third workout included four 30-second, all-out sprints, with a four-and-a-half minute break after each.

Muscle biopsies before and after each workout showed similar responses — in each case, their cells reacted in a similar way, indicating that the muscle strengthening efforts of each workout were similar, even if one involved only two minutes of all-out effort.

Various studies have shown that high-intensity interval workouts can lead to big improvements in blood-sugar levels.


Various studies have shown that high-intensity interval workouts can lead to big improvements in blood-sugar levels.play

Various studies have shown that high-intensity interval workouts can lead to big improvements in blood-sugar levels.

(Shutterstock)

One review of research found that people who start doing high-intensity workout programs can improve insulin sensitivity by 23-58%. The studies analyzed in that review ranged from two to 16 weeks long.

Insulin sensitivity helps people’s bodies regulate blood sugar levels. Researchers think high-intensity training plays a role because the regimen improves the ability of muscles to take up glucose from blood so those muscles can be ready to jump into action.

High-intensity workouts might be the best way to improve blood pressure.


High-intensity workouts might be the best way to improve blood pressure.play

High-intensity workouts might be the best way to improve blood pressure.

(Shutterstock/Maridav)

Several studies have found that after 12 to 16 weeks of high-intensity training programs, people at risk of hypertension showed significant improvements in arterial stiffness (which leads to high blood pressure).

These high-intensity programs were more effective for improving that stiffness than conventional exercise routines.

High-intensity training is one of the most important ways to improve athletic performance.


High-intensity training is one of the most important ways to improve athletic performance.play

High-intensity training is one of the most important ways to improve athletic performance.

(Shutterstock)

Whenever you look at a training program designed to help someone become faster, stronger, or a better performer in a certain sport, that program will almost certainly include sets of high-intensity intervals.

That’s because these sorts of programs push people’s limits, which is what you need to do to improve at a sport.

High-intensity interval workouts are much more effective than pure endurance training at improving VO2Max (that commonly used measure of how well muscles use oxygen). Even people who don’t improve much with traditional exercise programs often see significant improvements after doing interval training.

To get started with a high-intensity training program, Barone recommends picking a type of workout that you’re interested in.


To get started with a high-intensity training program, Barone recommends picking a type of workout that you're interested in.play

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To get started with a high-intensity training program, Barone recommends picking a type of workout that you’re interested in.

(Shutterstock/Dragon Images)

On a basic level, any high-intensity interval program involves a warm up, followed by a few cycles of intense activity with short rest breaks in between.

That activity could be sprinting, swimming, cycling, or do body-weight exercises.

Researchers have studied bursts of activity as short as 20 seconds at a time, but most studies have people go at full intensity for between one and four minutes before they take a short break. Then they repeat the cycle.

There are plenty of pre-designed interval workout programs you could try.


There are plenty of pre-designed interval workout programs you could try.play

There are plenty of pre-designed interval workout programs you could try.

(Shutterstock/El Nariz)

Several routines that we’ve found effective include body-weight exercises using the the 7-Minute Workout app or the Sworkit app.

You can also try this study-backed 10-minute routine, which includes just one minute of all-out exercise. Other routines involve more strength training.

You can even do a form high intensity interval training for weight lifting or strength training.


You can even do a form high intensity interval training for weight lifting or strength training.play

You can even do a form high intensity interval training for weight lifting or strength training.

(Shutterstock/Jovan Barajevac)

A recent study by the American Council on Exercise (ACE) found that it’s possible to apply the high-intensity interval framework to strength training, too.

When researchers had a group of people start strength training, they assigned them to three groups: one that would do a traditional weight-training program that built up weight slowly, a control group that wouldn’t work out, and a group that would do far fewer repetitions of each exercise than the traditional group, but all at maximum effort.

The group that did the max-effort workouts spent far less time in the gym, but they got stronger faster and stronger overall.

Don’t push yourself too hard during your first high-intensity workout.


Don't push yourself too hard during your first high-intensity workout.play

Don’t push yourself too hard during your first high-intensity workout.

(Shutterstock)

Barone recommends that if you’re doing a new type of activity, you start at a beginner level. This is especially true if you are trying to get back into shape but haven’t been working out regularly. Don’t pick something that’s too complicated for you to do with proper form or technique. Start simple and work your way up to harder programs to avoid injuring yourself.

Warm up properly.


Warm up properly.play

Warm up properly.

(Shutterstock)

When going all-out, there’s a chance you could injure yourself if you aren’t warmed up. And that doesn’t mean quickly stretching and touching your toes, either.

Barone suggests doing a five-minute dynamic warmup that will help get your muscles ready to go. When warming up and stretching, focus on the muscles you’re going to use — your shoulders don’t need much attention if you’re going to be sprinting, for example, and your back shouldn’t get neglected if you’ll be swimming.

Listen to your body.


Listen to your body.play

Listen to your body.

(Shutterstock/ESB Professional)

While high-intensity training by definition means you have to push yourself, make sure you don’t put yourself out of commission and miss your next workout. Try to complete every exercise with the best form you can.

“It’s good to push the body, but you need to listen to it as well,” Barone said. “Be aware of warning signs … don’t push through pain, that might mean you need to take it easy.”

If you feel a sharp or sudden twinge, stop and assess the situation before you continue.

Repeat.


Repeat.play

Repeat.

(Shutterstock)

High-intensity workouts can yield great benefits if you do them several times a week, perhaps balanced in between other longer workouts.

But the best form of exercise is one you can do regularly. If you find a routine you like enough to do on a consistent basis, that’s the way to see the most improvement over time.



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Public officers above 58 years and with pre-existing conditions told to work from home: The Standard

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Head of Public Service Joseph Kinyua. [File, Standard]
In a document from Head of Public Service, Joseph Kinyua new measure have been outlined to curb the bulging spread of covid-19. Public officers with underlying health conditions and those who are over 58 years -a group that experts have classified as most vulnerable to the virus will be required to execute their duties from home.

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However, the new rule excluded personnel in the security sector and other critical and essential services.
“All State and public officers with pre-existing medical conditions and/or aged 58 years and above serving in CSG5 (job group ‘S’) and below or their equivalents should forthwith work from home,” read the document,” read the document.
To ensure that those working from home deliver, the Public Service directs that there be clear assignments and targets tasked for the period designated and a clear reporting line to monitor and review work done.
SEE ALSO: Thinking inside the cardboard box for post-lockdown work stations
Others measures outlined in the document include the provision of personal protective equipment to staff, provision of sanitizers and access to washing facilities fitted with soap and water, temperature checks for all staff and clients entering public offices regular fumigation of office premises and vehicles and minimizing of visitors except by prior appointments.
Officers who contract the virus and come back to work after quarantine or isolation period will be required to follow specific directives such as obtaining clearance from the isolation facility certified by the designated persons indicating that the public officer is free and safe from Covid-19. The officer will also be required to stay away from duty station for a period of seven days after the date of medical certification.
“The period a public officer spends in quarantine or isolation due to Covid-19, shall be treated as sick leave and shall be subject to the Provisions of the Human Resource Policy and procedures Manual for the Public Service(May,2016),” read the document.
The service has also made discrimination and stigmatization an offence and has guaranteed those affected with the virus to receive adequate access to mental health and psychosocial supported offered by the government.
The new directives targeting the Public Services come at a time when Kenyans have increasingly shown lack of strict observance of the issued guidelines even as the number of positive Covid-19 cases skyrocket to 13,771 and leaving 238 dead as of today.
SEE ALSO: Working from home could be blessing in disguise for persons with disabilities
Principal Secretaries/ Accounting Officers will be personally responsible for effective enforcement and compliance of the current guidelines and any future directives issued to mitigate the spread of Covid-19.

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Uhuru convenes summit to review rising Covid-19 cases: The Standard

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President Uhuru Kenyatta (pictured) will on Friday, July 24, meet governors following the ballooning Covid-19 infections in recent days.
The session will among other things review the efficacy of the containment measures in place and review the impact of the phased easing of the restrictions, State House said in a statement.
This story is being updated.
SEE ALSO: Sakaja resigns from Covid-19 Senate committee, in court tomorrow

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Drastic life changes affecting mental health

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Kenya has been ranked 6th among African countries with the highest cases of depression, this has triggered anxiety by the World Health Organization (WHO), with 1.9 million people suffering from a form of mental conditions such as depression, substance abuse.

KBC Radio_KICD Timetable

Globally, one in four people is affected by mental or neurological disorders at some point in their lives, this is according to the WHO.

Currently, around 450 million people suffer from such conditions, placing mental disorders among the leading causes of ill-health and disability worldwide.

The pandemic has also been known to cause significant distress, mostly affecting the state of one’s mental well-being.

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With the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic attributed to the novel Coronavirus disease, millions have been affected globally with over 14 million infections and half a million deaths as to date. This has brought about uncertainty coupled with difficult situations, including job loss and the risk of contracting the deadly virus.

In Kenya the first Coronavirus case was reported in Nairobi by the Ministry of Health on the 12th March 2020.  It was not until the government put in place precautionary measures including a curfew and lockdown (the latter having being lifted) due to an increase in the number of infections that people began feeling its effect both economically and socially.

A study by Dr. Habil Otanga,  a Lecturer at the University of Nairobi, Department of Psychology says  that such measures can in turn lead to surge in mental related illnesses including depression, feelings of confusion, anger and fear, and even substance abuse. It also brings with it a sense of boredom, loneliness, anger, isolation and frustration. In the post-quarantine/isolation period, loss of employment due to the depressed economy and the stigma around the disease are also likely to lead to mental health problems.

The Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) states that at least 300,000 Kenyans have lost their jobs due to the Coronavirus pandemic between the period of January and March this year.

KNBC noted that the number of employed Kenyans plunged to 17.8 million as of March from 18.1 million people as compared to last year in December. The Report states that the unemployment rate in Kenya stands at 13.7 per cent as of March this year while it stood 12.4 per cent in December 2019.

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Mama T (not her real name) is among millions of Kenyans who have been affected by containment measures put in place to curb the spread of the virus, either by losing their source of income or having to work under tough guidelines put in place by the MOH.

As young mother and an event organizer, she has found it hard to explain to her children why they cannot go to school or socialize freely with their peers as before.

“Sometimes it gets difficult as they do not understand what is happening due to their age, this at times becomes hard on me as they often think I am punishing them,”

Her contract was put on hold as no event or public gatherings can take place due to the pandemic. This has brought other challenges along with it, as she has to find means of fending for her family expenditures that including rent and food.

“I often wake up in the middle of the night with worries about my next move as the pandemic does not exhibit any signs of easing up,” she says. She adds that she has been forced to sort for manual jobs to keep her family afloat.

Ms. Mary Wahome, a Counseling Psychologist and Programs Director at ‘The Reason to Hope,’ in Karen, Nairobi says that such kind of drastic life changes have an adverse effect on one’s mental status including their family members and if not addressed early can lead to depression among other issues.

“We have had cases of people indulging in substance abuse to deal with the uncertainty and stress brought about by the pandemic, this in turn leads to dependence and also domestic abuse,”

Sam Njoroge , a waiter at a local hotel in Kiambu, has found himself indulging in substance abuse due to challenges he is facing after the hotel he was working in was closed down as it has not yet met the standards required by the MOH to open.

“My day starts at 6am where I go to a local pub, here I can get a drink for as little as Sh30, It makes me suppress the frustration I feel.” he says.

Sam is among the many who have found themselves in the same predicament and resulted to substance abuse finding ways to beat strict measures put in place by the government on the sale of alcohol so as to cope.

Mary says, situations like Sam’s are dangerous and if not addressed early can lead to serious complications, including addiction and dependency, violent behavior and also early death due to health complications.

She has, however, lauded the government for encouraging mental wellness and also launching the Psychological First Aid (PFA) guide in the wake of the virus putting emphasis on the three action principal of look, listen and link. “When we follow this it will be easy to identify an individual in distress and also offer assistance”.

Mary has urged anyone feeling the weight of the virus taking a toll on them not to hesitate but look for someone to talk to.

“You should not only seek help from a specialist but also talk to a friend, let them know what you are undergoing and how you feel, this will help ease their emotional stress and also find ways of dealing with the situation they are facing,” She added

Mary continued to stress on the need to perform frequent body exercises as a form of stress relief, reading and also taking advantage of this unfortunate COVID-19 period to engage in hobbies and talent development.

“Let people take this as an opportunity to kip fit, get in touch with one’s inner self and  also engage in   reading that would  help expand their knowledge.

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