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High intensity training is good for heart patients, says Canadian study

Is high intensity training actually good for your heart? A new study in the Canadian Journal of Cardiology finds that high intensity interval training (HIIT) is a safe and effective form of exercise for patients with cardiac disease.

The study compared HIIT with other exercise training modalities such as continuous aerobic exercise training (CAET) and resistance training for individuals with either coronary heart disease or chronic heart failure.

High intensity training and your heart. A good combination?

The results showed that HIIT, especially short interval HIIT involving 15-second exercise intervals at peak power, is not only safe and well tolerated by patients with cardiac disease but it produces physiological responses equal or superior to other exercise regimens. Particularly in comparison to CAET, once the commonly prescribed approach to exercise training, HIIT fared well, resulting in a greater improvement in peak oxygen uptake or VO2, a key indicator of cardiovascular fitness.

Cardiac disease is the number one cause of death globally according to the World Health Organization, with an estimated 17.5 million people dying from cardiac disease in 2012. In Canada, heart disease remains the leading cause of death and the biggest driver of prescription drug use, according to the Heart & Stroke Foundation. Currently there are 1.3 million Canadians living with heart disease, which together with stroke cost the Canadian economy $20.9 billion a year.

High intensity interval training involves brief periods of high-intensity exercise interspersed with periods of low-intensity exercise or rest. Once thought suitable only for athletes already possessing excellent fitness, HIIT has been shown to be adaptable to people of almost any level of fitness. HIIT also appeals to those who feel they’re too busy to exercise or dislike the extended exertion of a workout.

For those suffering from cardiac disease, however, exercise is often crucial to improving long-term prognoses as it helps combat inspiratory muscle weakness and improve overall cardiovascular, lung and skeletal muscle functioning.

“We do believe that HIIT should now be more fully and systematically integrated into cardiac rehabilitation programs while reinforcing existing evidence on long-term safety and efficacy of this training modality,” say the study’s authors.

Recently, the Heart & Stroke foundation praised a new Senate committee report that urges the federal government to take action against obesity, a leading risk factor for cardiac disease and stroke. The committee calls for a tax on sweetened drinks, a ban on advertising food and drink to children and increased efforts to make healthy foods more affordable to Canadian families.

“For more than forty years, industry has self-regulated but has shown very little self-restraint. It is time for government to step in and tell industry that our children are not their business.” says David Sculthorpe, the Heart and Stroke Foundation’s CEO.

At this point, however, it’s unclear how effective a sugar tax would be. According to a study in the British Medical Journal, Mexico, which instituted a 10 per cent tax on sugary drinks in January of 2014, saw a reduction in sugary soft drink sales of just 6 per cent for 2014 and a 4 per cent increase in non-taxed drinks such as bottled water and dairy products.

Recently,  small study led by a researcher from the University of Laval suggested people with type 2 diabetes could benefit from short, intense bursts of exercise.

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About The Author /

Jayson MacLean
Jayson is a writer, researcher and educator with a PhD in political philosophy from the University of Ottawa. His interests range from bioethics and innovations in the health sciences to governance, social justice and the history of ideas.

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