HIIT and NEAT: new weapons in war on obesity and diabetes

Anyone watch Horizon on BBC last week? It was titled “Truth about exercise”. I suggest you all watch it. Two concepts discussed and experimented on in the program were HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) and NEAT (Non-exercise Activity Thermogenesis).

The work of Prof James Timmons in the field of HIIT was fascinating. HIIT improves aerobic fitness and insulin sensitivity after as little as 15 minutes exercise at maximal intensity over 2 weeks. Definitely much more than the 150 minutes recommended by DOH. It’s probably not for all but for a few may be just short enough to maintain interest. Prof Timmons has also identifies 11 genes that predict an individuals response to HIIT in terms of aerobic fitness and hopes before long to have a commercially available genetic test to see if you are a responder to HIIT in terms of aerobic fitness. Insulin sensitivity improved in all studied, so there is still considerable benefit with HIIT. . The original paper can be accessed here.

NEAT is referred to as The Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon of Societal Weight Gain! Small steps everyday can improve fitness, maybe help in weight loss or weight maintenance at the very least. In Horizon James Levine explained how the chair ( a metaphor for sedentary behavior) is a killer. He suggests that we develop individual strategies to promote standing and ambulating time by 2.5 hours per day and also re-engineer our work, school, and home environments to render active living the option of choice. What we all need is a Walkstation!

So hopefully, by being a bit NEATer and taking a HIIT we all can improve our aerobic fitness and insulin sensitivity (but eat a lot less and smart if you want to lose weight).