SARAH KOHL, MD, is a
practicing pediatrician and clinical
assistant professor of pediatrics at
the University of Pittsburgh School
of Medicine. She helps scientists
and doctors communicate their ideas clearly so that
they can be heard, understood, and believed. She
speaks internationally about how to use social media,
blogging, and scientific storytelling to increase the
impact of scientific research. She has been featured on
NBC, KevinMD, and Health Tap. SarahKohlMD.com.
to figure it out on the fly. If you plan in advance, you
won’t waste precious willpower deciding whether
you should go for a walk or go to the gym, what you
will wear, or when you will go. By the time you finish
all the mental machinations, you could be done.
Planning in advance allows you to take ownership of
exercise and say to yourself, “I am a healthy person,
a person who takes care of my body.”
You may need to make some changes to your every-
day routine. Decide when and where you will exercise,
put it on your calendar, and pack your gym bag the
night before. Saving time and energy getting out the
door helps you stay focused on your plan.
Once you start regular exercise, you’ll feel better,
you’ll sleep better, you’ll have more energy, and your
mood will improve! That’s when the process becomes
a virtuous cycle, reinforcing itself.
IS IT TOO LATE TO START?
Wonder if you’ve been sitting around too long for
exercise to make a difference?
Scientists in Dallas, Texas, wondered the same
thing. They questioned whether exercise could help
a sedentary person, and, if so, did the type of exercise matter? To find out, they recruited 61 sedentary,
middle-aged participants into their study. They split
their subjects into two groups. One was assigned to
participate in yoga, strength, and balance training.
The other began the Nordic 4x4 HIIT program.
After two years, the results were stunning. The
group doing strength and flexibility exercises had no
measurable improvement in cardiovascular health.
But the group who participated in interval training
was able to reverse the effects of aging on their
hearts. The HIIT group had significant improvement
in heart and blood vessel flexibility, which are markers of improved heart health.
This well-designed study shows that high- and
moderate-intensity exercise is able to reverse the
effects of aging on the heart. It adds to a growing
body of evidence showing that interval training is
essential to keeping your heart healthy. Incidentally,
the group that participated in interval training also
got stronger and fitter because their hearts could
pump more blood during exercise. For most people,
exercise endurance is limited by your heart’s ability
to pump blood, not the function of your skeletal
Clearly the type of exercise you do makes a big
difference in your health. Of course, you’ll want to
check with your doctor before beginning a new exercise program. Fortunately, studies show that interval
training is very safe, and it can even be modified for
people who already have heart problems. ■
Need a Plan?
After you get the go-ahead from your doctor, you’ll
want to find an exercise program built for bringing your
sedentary body up to speed, literally. The Cardiac
Exercise Research Group (CERG) offers an easy-to-follow seven-week starter program. You can find it
ntnu.edu/cerg/regimen. Their plan—based on the
Nordic 4x4 HIIT program—is efficient and backed by
You’ll learn how to add healthy exercise by
following their program three days per week with
simple activities such as walking up hills, bike riding,
and swimming. They even offer instructions for a
Now, even busy people like you can abandon a
sedentary life and add an effective exercise program
into your schedule. And when you do, you’ll feel better
and have more energy.