The One-Minute Workout: Science Shows a Way to Get Fit That's Smarter, Faster, Shorter by Martin Gibala
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Though this book could have been better organized and about 100 pages shorter, Gibala's overall mission, which was to show that heart-healthy exercise doesn't require a huge time commitment, is accomplished.
HITT is an acronym that stands for high intensity interval training, a somewhat old approach to training that has recently gained a lot of attention mainly because the science (as to why it works) has finally caught up.
Traditionally, it was believed that the only way to improve heart health was through prolonged moderate-intensity activities. There were several reasons for this prevailing idea of the time. But thanks to researchers like Gibala, we now know better.
With respect to reaping the cardiovascular benefits of exercise, it would seem that interval training (bouts of higher intensity exercise mixed in with recovery periods of low intensity activity) is not only equal to but even superior to training at moderate-intensities. And the best part is that it takes significantly less time.
Gibala goes into the physiology briefly, which is still in need of some clarification. He also takes on the naysayers who claim that high intensity is either too dangerous or too intimidating for those who need the cardio benefits the most. And he provides a section with specific programs, all of which have been tested in the laboratory and shown to improve cardiovascular health.
The big takeaway here is that the best way to improve the system is to tax it. The body responds to overload by becoming stronger and fitter. The greater the stress, which in the case of the heart is higher intensities, the bigger the adaptation or improvement in fitness as a result. And because high intensity/vigorous activities are not only hard to sustain, but not much fun either, interval training can be a way to reap the benefits of higher intensity exercise while minimizing the pain, but also reducing the time required by moderate intensities to reach the same goals.
He also points out that higher intensity means different things to different people. After all, what feels like a vigorous activity to someone who is significantly deconditioned is substantially different than what taxes the cardiovascular system of a conditioned athlete. The point isn't to perform some arbitrary exercise, but rather to complete exercise at an intensity that sufficiently taxes your cardiovascular system.
In truth, interval training isn't new, however, the findings of researchers like Gibala have given us new evidence that bouts of higher intensity exercise, even if it totals no more than a minute, is an effective strategy for improving cardiovascular health, not only as good as moderate-intensity exercise, but better. Gibala's hope is that people will be more likely to engage in exercise if it isn't a huge time commitment.
He's certainly right about one thing. There are a lot of people who use lack of time as an excuse for not exercising. I hear it all the time, pun intended.
The main weakness of this book is that the information feels poorly organized. It's relatively short and could have been substantially shorter. Maybe in an attempt to make the book more substantive, he drug things out. Maybe. Personally, I'd rather read a short book that gets to the point, than a long one that feels repetitive and unnecessarily so.
All in all, still a worthwhile read in part because Gibala really is an expert in his field.