Middle-aged Couple Running on the Beach

By: Lisa Best MBA, Ph.D in Holistic Nutrition, CCN

In addition to a enjoying a nutritious diet, we all know that exercise is important for cardiovascular health, weight maintenance, and lymph movement throughout the body. And the most important part about exercising is picking something you like that fits your style, so you will stick with it. Just like fad diets, there are tons of fad exercise programs out there too, and it’s hard to know which ones to try.

But I must confess, interval training is my personal favorite form of exercise, not just because it’s quick and powerful, but because I can still smile while doing it.

I wrestled with writing generically about several types of exercise, but ultimately decided to turn this topic over to an expert, Dr. Al Sears, the doctor whose protocols I both recommend and have followed myself for more than 10 years.

Dr. Sears is a progressive physician in the forefront of anti-aging medicine, natural cures, and optimal heart health. He has written extensively about his formula for interval training called PACE®, which he developed after studying Olympic athletes. Many other physicians and exercise specialists have copied Dr. Sears’ programs over the years, but his was the original.

I was initially attracted to PACE® because of the short 12 minute time commitment, in contrast to the hours I’ve logged running 2-4 miles 4 or more days a week for 30 years prior to switching to intervals. I started PACE® over 10 years ago because it made sense, but I’ve stuck with it because it works.

I usually do PACE® every other day, alternating with strength training (weights) and flexibility exercises (Yoga) on the days I don’t do interval training. I’ve also encouraged nutrition consulting clients, and my whole family to try it, since the benefits are so great and the time required so minimal.

For those of us who have passed the magical half-century mark, it is especially important to minimize the loss of flexibility and strength that can often accompany aging. So I do push-ups, and squats as part of my PACE® workout in addition to sprinting or swimming to add variety. But the magical part about PACE® is you can do it with any type of movement that gets your heart rate up. The choice is yours.

Plus other major benefits I’ve noticed since I started doing interval training, is I don’t feel exhausted from my workouts anymore, and I don’t get exercise injuries. Focus is on short bursts of intense energy instead of prolonged, repetitive stress.

If you are a marathoner, tri-athlete, or one of those mud wrestlers, I’m not trying to talk you out of your sport if you love it, as long as you stay mindful of the stress you are putting on your system. I think the thrill of competition and personal sense of accomplishment are good reasons to do extreme sports short-term if you enjoy them.

But for heart health, long-term health, and long-term injury prevention, interval training is tops.

Even I was worried in the beginning that I might lose strength or stamina by cutting back my running time. So I test it intermittently by doing a 4-mile run every now and then, just to verify I can still do it.

I’ve been amazed to discover that not only can I still do it, but I also have way more energy when I do. Plus, I’ve noticed I rarely get sick anymore, so my immune system has recovered from the stress of running with interval training too.

To tell you about his plan personally, I’d like to introduce you to Dr. Al Sears, and an article he’s written on the heart healthy merits of interval training:

Man Dies after Taking Bad Advice

“Dr. Sears, my internal medicine doctor wants me to exercise for an hour a day. Sometimes I get so tired, I feel like I’m going to collapse. How could this be good for me?”

This patient recently asked me this right after I had read about a man who died while driving back from a 2,400 mile bike ride. I began thinking if that’s not enough cardio to protect your heart what will?

Many of my patients report this bad advice. That’s too bad. Traditional cardio actually makes your heart and lungs smaller. Today I’ll show you why PACE® exercise will energize your heart. You can do it in as little as twelve minutes a day.

The Problem with Long Distance Cardio

This man died of a heart attack shortly after riding his bicycle across the continent.(1) He reportedly undertook this extreme durational cardio to re-strengthen his heart.

Yet I’ve been saying for years, long duration cardio will not protect you from heart disease or heart attack. It actually makes your heart smaller and weaker.

To protect and energize your heart, you need to build your heart’s reserve capacity.

Have you ever noticed that long distance runners look thin, weak and out of shape? Watch any marathon on TV and you’ll see what I mean. To compare, watch a track and field event and see how muscular and fit the sprinters look.

The interval training the sprinters practice boosts your heart’s reserve capacity. This is what your heart needs when it gets stressed. A heart attack will hit you when your heart needs extra energy but has nowhere to go. A small heart, streamlined from years of jogging will not have the extra capacity for stressful situations.

The Secret to Heart Attack Prevention

The good news is that interval training takes as little as twelve minutes a day. You can do it on any machine at the gym. You can even run or bike outdoors. Start at a slow easy pace. Then pick up the intensity for two minutes. Afterwards, go back to a slow, easy speed. Repeat this process and increase the intensity each time you do a faster interval.

As you become better conditioned, you’ll be able to exercise in short bursts of intense intervals. After each interval, you’ll actually feel yourself start to pant. This means you’re doing it right. When you pant, you are asking your lungs for more oxygen than they can provide in the moment. This is an oxygen deficit.

This tells your body to increase your lung volume. It also builds the critical reserve capacity you need to prevent heart attacks.

Here’s an added bonus: PACE® exercise is your most reliable way to burn fat. Not only will you protect your heart and lungs, your fat will melt away.

For more information on PACE®, see Health Alerts 28, 58, 147 and 270.

To your Good Health,

Al Sears, MD

(1)Associated Press. Heart patient dies after 2,400-mile ride. www.cnn.com. May 2, 2005.

The best part about PACE® is you can start it no matter what your current level of fitness, since the idea is to slowly add intensity each time you work out. And since you are always increasing your intensity, those nasty workout plateaus are a thing of the past.

You don’t have to buy Dr. Sears’ books or workout tapes to try this concept at home, but he surely makes exercising easy for you if you want to take advantage of his expertise. 

Until next time .  .  .


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