What is Fast Exercise?

Michael does the plank in the park. Copyright Maud Craigie.

When I was young and slim I used to do a lot of sport, but gradually that stopped as I got older and busier. I have never liked the gym and I don’t particularly enjoy going for runs. So a couple of years ago I started looking into the latest science of exercise, keen to find the shortest and most scientifically effective exercise regimes.

That’s when I first came across HIT, high intensity training. My mentor was Dr Jamie Timmons, Professor of Systems Biology at Loughborough University. Loughborough is home to the Centre for Olympic Studies and Research and is one of the leading sports research centres in the UK.

When we met in 2011, Jamie made what I thought was an outrageous, almost unbelievable claim. He said that I could get many of the more important benefits of exercise from a few minutes of intense exercise a week.

He said that if I was prepared to give it a go he was confident that in just 4 weeks I would see significant changes in my biochemistry. It seemed wildly unlikely but also immensely intriguing. So I got myself properly tested and then I went for it. The results were a revelation.

Peta does pushups on a bench in the park. Copyright Maud Craigie.

Since 2011 HIT has really taken off but the principles remain charmingly simple: do 3-10 minutes of exercise a week, takes lots of rests but pushing yourself hard enough to get your really heart pumping close. The concept is simple, the execution a bit more difficult. In the Fast Exercise book we provide workouts that are safe, effective and easy to do, giving you the biggest improvements in the least time.

Some of the proven benefits of High Intensity Training include:

  • Improved aerobic fitness and endurance
  • Reduced body fat
  • Increased upper and lower body strength
  • Improved insulin sensitivity

Whatever your age or level of fitness, and whether you prefer to cycle, run, swim or walk, there is an exercise regime for you.

As well as Fast Fitness exercises which will improve your aerobic and metabolic fitness in record time, we also include a range of Fast Strength exercises. These build muscle, make you look more toned, and can also be done in a few minutes a day, requiring nothing more than a chair (or park bench if you prefer to exercise outside).

There’s a bit more to it than that, of course. It turns out that it matters what you do when you’re not exercising. Exercise – HIT or otherwise – doesn’t count for much if you’re sitting for hours day in, day out. The concept you need to know about is called “NEAT” – “Non Exercise Activity Thermogenesis” and is, as it says, the amount of energy you burn in everyday activities that aren’t considered exercise.

It’s important to incorporate more activity into your daily routine: take the stairs, get off the bus or train a stop early and walk the rest of the way or even just fidget more.

I will write a bit more about NEAT in the near future. I’m mounting a campaign to try and encourage people to use the stairs more and thought I would start by getting people to send in picture of their favourite/least favourite stair cases.

Stairs can give you a terrific workout (you’ll burn at least 3x more calories running up stairs than running on the flat) and because you are using gravity to slow you down they are also less likely to cause you injury than many other forms of exericse. Our book includes a number of ways you can use stairs to improve your fitness, but I am always keen to hear more.

Fast fitness for everyone!