Men's Health Australia




A new cardiac-rehab protocol reveals a smart strategy for anyone who wants a stronger ticker

DOCTORS USED TO treat guys who had heart trouble with kid gloves, as if their hearts were extremely fragile and intense exercise could cause another blowout.

“We had the ‘Take it slow, let’s not push too hard’ view of recovery,” says Dr Andrew Keech, an exercise physiologist at the University of New South Wales.

It was safe and reasonably effective for strengthening the heart and avoiding future problems like another heart attack. It was also so boring that guys in rehab didn’t show up for their cardio workouts. (Sound familiar?) Norwegian cardiology researcher Dr Ulrik Wisløff had the notion to turn things up a notch. The maximum amount of oxygen your body can use during exercise – your peak aerobic capacity, or VO2 max – is the single best predictor of cardiac-related deaths (and deaths of all causes). So his team figured that exercise that raises VO2 max might be just what the doctor ordered.

And one of the smartest ways to raise that VO2 max is through high-intensity interval training. With HIIT, you make your heart beat hard, then back off and let it recover, then go hard again, reaching intensities that the start-low-and-go-slow approach could never match.

Wisløff’s method worked. In a seminal 2007 study of adults in cardiac rehab, those who did a HIIT program three times per week – they spent four minutes at a tough 90-95 per cent effort, recovered for three minutes, then did it again three more times – increased their VO2 max three times as much as those who walked for about 45 minutes at 70-75 per cent effort.

The HIIT rehabbers

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