Having been an avid exerciser for nearly five decades, there's no doubt in my mind that a comprehensive fitness routine is essential for optimal health. Health and fitness is an ongoing, lifelong journey, though. It's important to take stock of where you are and to keep pushing yourself to new heights. At the same time, you need to listen to your body and be willing to fine-tune or completely alter your workout routine as your circumstances change.
As an example, for nearly 40 years my primary exercise was long-distance running, but as I got older, I realized there were healthier and far more effective forms of exercise. Once I switched from running to peak fitness high-intensity interval training (HIIT) and strength training, my fitness soared and my physique changed rather dramatically for the better.
A significant piece of the puzzle relates to how HIIT improves your mitochondria, and generates more of them. Mitochondria are tiny organelles found in nearly all of your cells, responsible for production of energy in the form of adenosine triphosphate (ATP). The more mitochondria you have and the healthier they are, the more energy your body can generate and the lower your risk of chronic diseases like arthritis, cancer, heart disease and Alzheimer's.
Two Key Strategies to Help Your Fitness Soar in 2017
I still believe HIIT is the most effective and efficient way to reach your fitness goals, but I've further fine-tuned my approach and now use an even shorter routine that I believe is just as effective while being far safer, especially if you're older or just starting out. Below, I'll discuss this new technique, which I refer to as "the nitric oxide dump."
The scientific literature also clearly shows that sitting for extended periods is a major, independent risk factor for chronic disease, even if you exercise regularly, so daily non-exercise movement is likely one of the most important fitness strategies for many — especially if you're currently not exercising on a regular basis.
The reason for this is because sitting blocks a number of insulin-mediated systems, including muscular and cellular pathways that process blood sugar, triglycerides and cholesterol. Standing up — bearing your own body weight on your legs — activates all of these systems at the molecular level. I'll review this below as well.
Exercise Benefits Both Your Body and Your Brain
A number of biological effects occur when you exercise. This includes changes in your muscles, lungs, heart, joints and bones, all of which help keep your body as youthful as possible. Weight-bearing exercise, for example, is one of the most effective remedies against osteoporosis, which is why strength training is so important for the elderly.
Exercise also helps keep your brain in good working order. There are in fact intriguing links between muscle growth and brain regeneration, also known as neurogenesis, which helps slow down or ward off cognitive loss. Mechanisms by which exercise produces beneficial changes in your brain include:
Decreasing bone-morphogenetic protein (BMP) and increasing noggin. BMP reduces neurogenesis and Noggin is a BMP antagonist. By reducing the detrimental effects of BMP while boosting the more beneficial Noggin, your brain is able to retain its agility3,4
Reducing plaque formation: By altering the way damaging proteins reside inside your brain, exercise may help slow the development of Alzheimer's disease5
Triggering genetic changes, many of which help protect against brain diseases such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's
Triggering release of neurotransmitters such as endorphins, serotonin, dopamine, glutamate and GABA. Some of these are well-known for their role in mood control and have mood boosting effects
Activating PGC1 alpha. This is the stimulus to increase mitochondrial biogenesis and increase the number and quality of these vital energy producing parts of your cell