“Slow and steady wins the race” — so the saying goes. But is that always the best advice? Sometimes you have to go all out, go for the gold. We sometimes need that extra edge to get results. Professional sports players know that they must go all out to win, giving it everything they’ve got, even when they are losing. You know that, when building muscle, you need to work a muscle to exhaustion to get maximum benefit from the workout; to get that gain, that growth, that increased strength you want. Maybe the better saying is “go the extra mile.”

This is the concept of overcoming a threshold. Rain won’t fall from a cloud until it reaches a certain threshold, the saturation point, and then it starts raining. Snow can build up on a mountain, but an avalanche waits until enough has been accumulated to get the avalanche started. In chemistry, catalysts allow a reaction to start by overcoming the chemical threshold — there is already enough energy for the reaction to proceed, but it has to get over a hurdle which the catalyst does for it. Enzymes are such catalysts, allowing things like digestion to proceed.

We naturally try to avoid shocking our bodies with extremes. If we jump in the shower but forget to turn on the warm water, or if we turn on too much hot water, we are not happy; even though hot/cold alternating therapy, if done correctly, has some very positive health benefits. We don’t like to strain against a heavy weight, or run so fast that we are out of breath, but the research is showing these can have tremendous benefits. It’s important to know how to push limits safely, but pushing them properly in exercise unleashes health benefits not available any other way.

One type of exercise has become popular, because it unleashes these benefits while saving time over traditional exercise. Some people don’t have time for a long moderate workout, but can fit HIIT (High-Intensity Interval Training) into a lunch break. HIIT is exercising near your limits — about 80% to 90% of your maximum heart rate (often considered to be 220 minus your age) — for a short time, then dropping back to moderate exercise until you have recovered from the high-intensity burst. You can repeat this for several cycles for greater effect. The moderate exercise to start out with and in between full-out activity is to prepare the muscles — get them warmed up and limber — and to keep them ready for the next burst. But it’s the high intensity bursts that best overcome some metabolic thresholds in your body.

Get AMP’d up
Adenosine Monophosphate-Activated Protein Kinase (AMPK) is an enzyme that kicks in when your body senses “low fuel” in your body. Activated AMPK stimulates glucose uptake by mobilizing GLUT4 glucose transporters, which assist your muscles in extracting glucose from your blood; and promotes fatty acid oxidation, which produces acetyl-CoA that supplies energy when glycogen stores, from which glucose can be readily made, are depleted. At the same time, it inhibits protein and lipid synthesis, which require energy in the short term to produce longer term energy later. As explained in a review article published in Biochemical Journal, stresses that increase the concentration of AMP in cells relative to ATP levels, so that the threshold of AMP to ATP is exceeded, cause AMPK to be activated. The researchers, from the University of Copenhagen, Denmark, and the Boston University Medical Center, MA listed other impacts of AMPK activation: regulation of mitochondrial biogenesis, angiogenesis, cell polarity, and hypothalamus control of food intake and whole-body energy expenditure. They note that extreme metabolic stress experienced during exercise leads to activation of AMPK in skeletal muscle, and some studies show it also activates in adipose tissue, liver, and probably other organs as well. But as long as ATP levels are supplying sufficient energy, AMPK is not activated.

Insulin resistance improved
HIIT uses fuel at an extreme rate, causing an energy emergency in the body. This takes pressure off the pancreas to produce insulin to lower glucose levels. Because of the energy emergency, the body starts asking for energy, and insulin resistance is minimized. Intense exercise helps prevent or reduce insulin resistance and diabetes.

This effect can last for two hours after the exercise. While modest exercise also helps reduce insulin resistance, the effect fades quickly after exercise, while the HIIT energy emergency causes the body to stay in fat burning mode for hours after returning to normal activity.

Over compensation
When the body is challenged, it tends to over compensate. We see this in exercise: working a muscle causes some of its cells to break down, and when allowed to rest and recover, the body builds back additional muscle tissue that makes it stronger than before. Stressing the body with high intensity, so long as the high intensity is not so severe as to cause outright damage, causes it to rebuild in a way that is better, and stronger. High-intensity exercise is a much greater stimulus than moderate exercise, causing greater compensation.

It should not be surprising that HIIT has many health benefits, including disease prevention. However, occasional HIIT can’t do much if it’s not recurring often, even daily. Vigorous Intermittent Lifestyle Physical Activity, or VILPA, is a pattern of doing HIIT-type exercises daily. Weekend warriors find it hard to exercise during the week, and in trying to make it up with hard work on the weekends, they are not building strength reliably but are setting themselves up for injuries. Instead, doing regular short duration vigorous exercises each day is much more effective and takes remarkably little time. In an article published in JAMA Oncologyresearchers from the University of Sidney found that VILPA totaling as little as 4.5 minutes a day can reduce risk of some cancers by 32%! In a study of 22,398 people with an average age of 62 who did not exercise in their leisure time (the stereotypical couch potatoes), they found 2356 new cancer events over the next 6.7 years. However, with the introduction of just 3.5 minutes a day of VILPA, they observed an overall cancer risk reduction of up to 18%. Certain activity-related cancers (these include liver, lung, kidney, gastric cardia (a type of stomach cancer), endometrial, myeloid leukemia, myeloma, colorectal, head and neck, bladder, esophageal adenocarcinoma (cancer of the oesophagus), and breast cancers) showed reductions up to 32% for those using VILPA 4.5 minutes or more per day.

Mix it up
Because the VILPA keeps pushing you into heavy-breathing, heart-pounding, and energy-burning stresses of your body, they totally change your metabolic response even during rest periods. They cause mechanisms to engage that won’t engage without breaking through the threshold that keeps the body in low, steady metabolism. Regular and longer moderate exercise is very valuable and will focus on endurance, but regular short bursts of high intensity are needed to break thresholds in your body. They must be within limits: 80%-90% is very different than 110%, which may sound like a good sound bite from a sports coach, but in reality means exceeding your body’s capabilities and inviting injury. But most of us think, when reaching 80% or 90% that we are actually at 110%, not fully realizing our capabilities. If we don’t regularly challenge our limits, our limits won’t expand.

So, what opportunities do you see today to get in a few minutes of truly vigorous activity? Quickly climbing a few flights of stairs? A minute of non-stop push-ups? All-out cycling for a few minutes? There are lots of HIIT exercise options you can come up with. The main thing is getting your heart rate high enough and get you gasping a little for air. Mix it up with slower endurance exercises to get greater results. Whatever works for you, don’t go a day without some vigorous exercise. The results are amazing!

Dr. Nemec’s Review

One of the most powerful take-home messages from these studies is that you can reduce the risk of cancer by 32% just by doing high intensity, short duration exercises — and the beauty of them is that they don’t take much time, just mere minutes give tremendous benefit.

We want to restate this: just five minutes of high intensity, short duration exercises a day can reduce or prevent up to 32% of cancers! What a tremendous cost benefit ratio!

This is so important to understand, especially for people with busy lifestyles that always say “I don’t have time to exercise.” You can do this at your home just going up and down the stairs intensely for a minute. In today’s day and age, when everyone’s rushed and very busy, this is the ideal exercise to fit into everyone’s lifestyle — and we mean everyone, no excuses: you can do these exercises when you’re 100 and beyond. Another tremendous benefit to these is they do not wear you out — quite the opposite. They stimulate an energy boost because you’re not expending a lot of energy long-term — just for a minute or two at a time.

Epigenetic exercise turns on longevity genes
In a quick restatement: high intensity, short-duration exercise stresses the cells in a positive way, which activates genetic pathways epigenetically that promote health, longevity, and anti-aging affects.

This need not be very long, just intense enough to get heart rate elevated at that maximum training rate and to go into oxygen debt, which means you are breathing heavily to get oxygen in. This is not walking on the treadmill for 20 minutes. This is equivalent to one minute at 80% sprinting capacity: whether you’re doing it by going up and down the stairs on an exercise bike or on the track, it has to be 80% maximum heart rate and high intensity for anywhere from 1 to 3 minutes. This can be done in cycles.

What do we mean when we say epigenetically activating genetic pathways?
Epigenetics is the field that looks at external factors that turn on and off gene function that are not actually a part of the gene initially. The word actually means “above the gene” or the gene is controlled from outside factors like exercise, diet, and lifestyle changes. These are things you do from the outside of the gene to influence what genes turn on, and what genes turn off. The whole field of epigenetics has proven that you are not a victim of your genes. You can change the environment epigenetically even if you have cancer genes, obesity genes, or any other genes connected to disease. To override these genes, that’s what exercise, diet and lifestyle have the power to do.

So from a longevity point it’s more important to do higher intensity short duration exercises than longer sessions of aerobic exercise like 30 minutes on a treadmill. Is the 30 minutes on the treadmill not productive? Sure it is, but not as powerful epigenetically as high intensity, short duration stress to the cells.

Now, an 85 year old person can still do the high intensity short duration for a minute two or three times a day and still do their one hour of walking or 30 minutes of treadmill. All exercise is beneficial no matter how mild, but what these studies are showing is the high intensity, short duration has the most benefit, as it stimulates both genetically-driven anti-aging metabolism and is longevity promoting for the time invested.

Some of the best things in life don’t take long — just a moment — and have a tremendous effect.

Here are the ways we can help you in your health journey:

  1. Outpatient Comprehensive Teaching and Treatment Program-has the most benefit of teaching, treatment, live classes and personalized coaching. This program has the most contact with Dr. Nemec with 3- 6 month programs that can be turned into a regular checking and support program for life. This is our core program that has helped so many restore their health and maintain that restoration for years.
  2. Inpatient Comprehensive Teaching and Treatment Program-is our four-week intensive inpatient program for those that are not in driving distance, usually over 4 hour drive. This is the program that is an intensive jumpstart with treatment, teaching, live classes and coaching designed for all our international patients along with those in the US that do not live in Illinois. This program is very effective especially when combined with our new membership program support.
  3. Stay at Home Program-is offered to continental US patients who cannot come to Total Health Institute but still want a more personal, customized plan to restore their health. This program also includes our Learn Membership Program.
  4. Membership Program is our newest program offered for those that want to work on their health at a high level and want access to the teaching at Total Health Institute along with the Forums: both Dr. Nemec’s posts and other members posting. And also, to have the chance to get personalized questions answered on the conference calls which are all archived in case you miss the call. The Membership Program has 3 levels to choose from: Learn, Overcome and Master. The difference is at the Overcome and Master levels you received one on one calls with Dr. Nemec personalizing your program for your areas of focus.