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PF Quick Hits: Are People HIITing the Brakes on High-Intensity Workouts?
Plus, one man's unbelievable quest to reverse aging.
People may be swapping out high intensity interval training, or HIIT workouts, for “gentler” forms of exercise, says a Wall Street Journal article that caught my eye this week.
At Practically Fit, we’ve talked about HIIT before, particularly in reference to kettlebell training. These workouts consist of several rounds of high-intensity effort, with short periods of rest or active recovery. They typically burn more calories in a shorter amount of time than traditional cardio, like running, but can be intense and hard on the body if you overdo it. Post-pandemic gymgoers seem to be trending away from the intensity, according to the Journal:
Fewer people are resuming high-intensity exercises as they go back to in-person fitness classes, according to trainers, instructors and other fitness professionals. Instead, more are doing gentler exercise such as yoga or walking, and giving priority to strength-training and mobility over quick calorie-burning and weight loss.
“You see fewer people trying to go all out, like level 10, and asking ‘where’s the bucket?’ afterward,” says Jt Netterville, New York-based trainer at Life Time, a national fitness club chain.
If these trainers have been doing HIIT classes so intense that they need vomit buckets on standby, I can see why people would be switching to yoga. While exercise-induced nausea can be normal, I prefer a runners high to throwing up. In general, I don’t think you should be exercising so hard that throwing up post exercise is a common occurrence.
The story also highlights a growing interest in “Sculpt” classes, which combine Pilates, yoga and strength training. One data point cited is a large increase in “Sculpt” bookings on a subscription-based platform called “ClassPass,” compared to a smaller increase in bookings for HIIT classes. I was curious to see if Google Search Trends indicated the same pattern, and generally, it does.
The blue and the red lines are search interest in “HIIT” and “High-intensity interval training” respectively, while the yellow line is search interest in “Sculpt.” You can see that interest in HIIT peaked during the pandemic, which makes sense, given we were all looking for some stress relief at that time.
While search interest in HIIT is still currently higher than Sculpt, you can see Sculpt catching up this year, which generally verifies the trend cited in the article. (Side note: plotting “yoga” or “Pilates” against these terms isn’t a fair match—there is WAY more interest in those two forms of exercise already.)
So what’s the main takeaway here? I think this quote from the article sums it up quite nicely:
“Coming out of the pandemic, there’s been a big shift from, ‘How do you look?’ to ‘How do you feel?’” says one of [Life Time Fitness’] fitness directors, Jessie Syfko, who developed the class.
Perhaps there’s hope Instagram fitness culture might no longer be in vogue. And you aren’t just seeing this movement in fitness trends, either. Think about the way you dress now compared to pre-pandemic times. It’s all about comfort and the way you feel. I know I’m loving stretchy fabric, which has finally made its way to men’s pants and jeans.
From a fitness perspective, I also much prefer moderate exercise to projectile vomiting. But I also believe in the benefits of mixing in higher intensity training to my routine. So while things may be trending towards “gentler” forms of exercise, I think it’s still important to make room for higher intensity efforts, which can boost your cardiovascular health.
Dry January’s Over…
…let wet February begin? Maybe not.
In celebration of a successful Dry January, I had two IPAs on Wednesday evening…
Yes, my enjoyment eventually turned into regret, as I had trouble falling asleep. Perhaps I forgot to read my own column from a few weeks ago?
As part of our Dry January journey,gifted me a book called "This Naked Mind," which I'm still reading. The book focuses on the “cultural, social, and industry factors that support alcohol dependence in all of us.” Perhaps we’ll provide a review soon, or even invite the author on to the podcast, but a few chapters in, one point really resonated with me.
It’s a similar idea to what Jen and I discussed on our Dry January podcast—alcohol is normalized in our society. If you’re trying to cut back or stop completely, you’re constantly in a tussle with your subconscious mind. Alcohol is everywhere you look. It’s plastered on appealing billboards you see on your daily commute. It’s on your favorite TV show—just look how much those characters are enjoying themselves while drinking! That sort of subconscious feedback can be hard to overcome.
I’m going to stick with my goal for this year of cutting back, even though I was only having a drink a few nights a week. I still want to have a beer after a run or bike ride, or a glass of wine when I go out to eat. But my experience on Wednesday night contrasted with January, when I slept great all month.
And in case you’re wondering, Jen and I never found the perfect Dry January alcohol replacement, though I think Hop Tea was in the leader in the clubhouse. It definitely wasn’t Lagunitas Hoppy Refresher…
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How much would you be willing to pay to reverse aging?
How about $2 million a year?
That’s how much Bryan Johnson, a wealthy tech entrepreneur, is spending yearly on what can only be described as extreme health experimentation. His doctors say he’s found a way to reverse aging, according to this fascinating Bloomberg profile.
He wants to have the brain, heart, lungs, liver, kidneys, tendons, teeth, skin, hair, bladder, penis and rectum of an 18-year-old.
So what does it take to reach this very specific goal? Well, in addition to eating exactly 1,977 calories a day on his vegan diet and 24/7 monitoring of his vital signs, there’s this:
Each month, he also endures dozens of medical procedures, some quite extreme and painful, then measures their results with additional blood tests, MRIs, ultrasounds and colonoscopies. “I treat athletes and Hollywood celebrities, and no one is pushing the envelope as much as Bryan,” says Jeff Toll, an internist on the team.
Each morning starting at 5 a.m., Johnson takes two dozen supplements and medicines. There’s lycopene for artery and skin health; metformin to prevent bowel polyps; turmeric, black pepper and ginger root for liver enzymes and to reduce inflammation; zinc to supplement his vegan diet; and a microdose of lithium for, he says, brain health. Then there’s an hourlong workout, consisting of 25 different exercises, and a green juice packed with creatine, cocoa flavanols, collagen peptides and other goodies...After eating, Johnson brushes, Waterpiks and flosses before rinsing with tea-tree oil and applying an antioxidant gel. His doctors say he has the gum inflammation of a 17-year-old.
Forgive me, but I can’t help but imagine these passages being read this in the voice of Patrick Bateman in American Psycho. The article spends several more paragraphs describing his routine, and it’s well worth the read. If you want to go further, Johnson is sharing his progress on his personal website.
You might say this is the exact opposite of being practically fit. But here’s hoping his experimentation benefits society and creates future medical breakthroughs.
So back to the original question: how much would you be willing to pay to reverse aging? And is it worth all that time? Share your take in the comments!