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Read Time 8 min

Why High-Intensity Interval Training Is a HIIT for PD

Tired of the same old fitness routine? Improve your body strength in just a few minutes by giving high-intensity interval training a shot.

A leisurely stroll always does the body good, but short bursts of intense exercise for just a few seconds off and on may help improve Parkinson’s symptoms.

High intensity interval training (HIIT)—as it’s called—is growing in popularity among people with Parkinson’s and other types of chronic disease not only because it makes them feel better, but because it’s easily adapted to any fitness level or workout.

Simply amp up any exercise routine by weaving in short bursts of 30-second, heart-pounding activity followed by a brief recovery period with less intense movements.

30 seconds on, then off

Think you don’t have the time for such a hard workout? Sure, you do! In general, you give it your all for 30 to 60 seconds (seconds! That’s it!) and then slow it down for the same period of time. Alternate this process off and on for just 15 to 20 minutes.

If you’re really up for a challenge (and your doctor says it’s OK), you can try it for longer.

Walking the dog? Step it up and try 30 seconds of running at top speed, before returning to your regular pace. Your dog will love it.

At home or the gym? Alternate one-minute paces on the treadmill. Start with a moderate pace, increase to a super-fast one, then calm your heart beat with a slower, relaxing stride. You can follow the same format on a stationary bike.

It’s a HIIT for anyone

Worried you don’t have the stamina or energy for HIIT? Maybe you think the slowed, stiff movements of Parkinson’s might hold you back?

It’s OK to be apprehensive. But HIIT isn’t just for the endurance athlete or Iron Man. As long as your doctor says it’s safe for you, we here at the Brian Grant Foundation encourage you to give it a try. Why? Because research shows HIIT helps Parkinson’s symptoms.

Polish researchers performed a study on 11 patients with mild to moderate Parkinson’s symptoms who did HIIT three times a week on a stationary bike for two months. Researchers found that HIIT stimulated the growth and function of nerves. By the end of the study, participants saw reductions in rigidity and stiffness, making it easier to move their arms and legs.

Researchers at the University of Alabama at Birmingham conducted a study introducing HIIT to older Parkinson’s patients. Biopsies of muscle tissue were collected from the participants before and after 16 weeks of 40-minute HIIT sessions. Not only did the researchers see improvement in skeletal muscle, the participants experienced improvement in their balance, muscle control, cognition and general well-being.

So now you know how HIIT helps improve the physical and neurological functions in people with Parkinson’s. But did you know that it can also boost the cardiovascular, respiratory and metabolic systems? In layman’s terms, HIIT helps the body improve the way it uses oxygen and insulin, which helps everyone live longer, healthier lives.

By Kelli Miller

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