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High Intensity Training (HIT)

Loughborough academic hails revolutionary fitness regime

Research spearheaded by Loughborough University will revolutionise the way people exercise to get fit and result in a fitter, healthier nation, according to the academic leading it.

Professor Jamie Timmons says three 20 second bursts of high intensity exercise a week will not only get people as fit as hours of road running or sweating buckets in a gym, it will also help them lose pounds of unwanted fat.

And all employers have to do to help their workers get fitter and healthier is install special bikes for them to do their one minute work-out during the working day.

Short duration high intensity cycling, says Professor Timmons, is the best form of exercise because it allows the activation of more muscle groups than most others.

Professor Timmons, Chair of Systems Biology from the School of Sport, Exercise and Health Sciences, said: “We need a new way to think about exercise. You can do 3x20 seconds on a special bike in your suit at work.

“So the key is getting your employer to put in the bikes. No showers or gyms are needed, but training guidance is.

“Losing fat - not weight as you can gain muscle and lose fat and stay the same weight - with this regime is possible, and our new trial will prove this in a large group.

“At Loughborough, Dr James King and Professor Myra Nimmo will study what HIT does to the adipose tissue and also what it does to the appetite.”

The regime is called High Intensity Training (HIT) and involves three 20 second bursts of high intensity exercise, with a short rest between each one, a week.

The researchers are not sure why it works so well, yet they know it does. And it sounds perfect for couch-potato Britain where 60 per cent of men and 70 per cent of women admit they do not follow the NHS guidelines, which recommend 150 minutes of brisk exercise a week, due to a lack of time.

Professor Timmons said: “There are perhaps 10 small studies showing that 20-30 second HIT bouts on a bike for six to 12 weeks boosts aerobic fitness.

“The precise mechanisms are not clear but the findings are very clear, so we can now state that to improve aerobic fitness you do not need to do 150 minutes of jogging a week. Three minutes of HIT can also do it.

“We will begin to publish on this larger project later this year but the main results will be later, in 2014/15.”

Professor Timmons is lead organiser of the project, called Metapredict: Predicting Human Metabolic Responses Using Advanced Genomics. It is backed by a £6m European Union grant and is co-ordinated from Loughborough University where clinical trial activity begins this month.

Loughborough has 10 partners across Europe, America and Canada and the project involves clinical samples from 2,000 people, 300 of whom will be involved at the six centres running the study at Loughborough.

HIT is common practice among athletes and has been a special area of study at Loughborough.

But by combining this knowledge with genetics data the researchers believe they have a good basis for progressing their ideas into health. Metapredict is a cutting edge medical project aimed at combating diabetes, obesity and cardiovascular disease.

Professor Timmons said: “Maximal intense exercise is a far superior method for mobilising the glycogen substrate in your muscle tissue (carbohydrate stores). It’s this process that triggers the body's response to being better able to handle blood glucose after eating and this will help people avoid Type 2 diabetes.

“We also have genetic studies indicating that you inherit your ability to gain from exercise to a large degree. Metapredict will help us further develop the tools that we need to apply genomics to optimise gains from exercise and also predict those who have some adverse responses such as increased blood pressure.”