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Is high-intensity exercise good for me?

Updated: Feb 14, 2023

Regular exercise is important for health and well-being. As a naturopath, I recommend some form of regular physical activity for most of my clients. However, sometimes the type of exercises people are doing, may not be ideal for their personal situation.


WHAT IS HIGH-INTENSITY EXERCISE?

High-intensity exercise is also referred to as vigorous exercise. It is considered high-intensity if your heart rate is working at about 70%-85% of your maximum heart rate. For most people, this would be characterised by feeling a bit breathless and potentially sweating.


What is classified as high-intensity exercise differs from person to person, as each person’s level of fitness varies. However, running, skipping rope, rowing, walking or running up hills or stairs, and some fitness classes are commonly considered high-intensity activities.


High-intensity exercise can have a positive effect on many people’s health. It can improve endurance and stamina. It can burn fat, relieve stress, lower blood pressure, and boost metabolism.


WHEN TO AVOID HIGH-INTENSITY EXERCISE

Whilst high-intensity exercise does offer health benefits, there are times when it is best to avoid vigorous activity.


  • CARDIOVASCULAR DISEASE AND HIGH-INTENSITY EXERCISE

Those that have a history of cardiovascular or respiratory conditions should approach high-intensity exercises with caution.


Whilst there are benefits of high-intensity exercise for people with cardiovascular diseases, they should be done in a measured way, under the guidance of a sports physiologist.


  • ENDOMETRIOSIS AND ADENOMYOSIS AND HIGH-INTENSITY EXERCISE

When a client presents to my clinic with endometriosis or adenomyosis, I will take into account her exercise regime.


Exercise is an important part of managing symptoms associated with endometriosis and adenomyosis. Regular exercise can reduce inflammation, help manage pain, and improve core muscles and posture. However, high-intensity exercises can aggravate the nervous system and increase inflammation.


Women who have endometriosis or adenomyosis can still participate in vigorous exercises, but should be mindful of the frequency and duration, the timing within her cycle, and allow for adequate rest and recovery.


  • POST-INJURY AND HIGH-INTENSITY EXERCISE

People who have sustained an injury, or are recovering from surgery should allow for a gradual and monitored return to high-intensity exercise.

Vigorous exercises can place significant stress on the joints and muscles. If the joints and muscles have been weakened by injury or surgery, they are more susceptible to being re-injured.


As a naturopath, I recommend to clients who have had surgery or an injury, to take a conservative approach in their return to exercise. That is, start with low-intensity, low-duration exercises and gradually build up, under the guidance of a sports or exercise physiologist.





STRESS & HIGH-INTENSITY EXERCISE

Whilst it is well-documented that exercise can help to relieve stress, high-intensity exercise can actually increase cortisol (stress hormone) levels. High cortisol levels can slow down metabolism and inhibit muscle repair. High cortisol levels can also hinder the immune system and decrease bone density.


People who are experiencing poor sleep habits, recurrent infections and poor recovery time may be exhibiting signs of high cortisol.



The ideal type, frequency, and duration of exercise varies considerably for each individual. It is dependent on their health history and presenting complaints. However, often I will recommend that patients initially focus on increasing their overall step count by walking 20-30 minutes, 3-4 times a week. I also encourage clients to engage in activities that support their mental health such as beach visits, walks in nature, and incidental exercise with friends and family.



 

Jasmine Setchell is a practicing Naturopath at Go Vita Ballarat.


She has worked in the health industry for 27 years, and in private practice for over 20 years. Jasmine has a Bachelor of Health Sciences (Naturopathy), Advanced Diploma Herbal Medicine, Advanced Diploma Nutritional Medicine, and Certificate 4 Aromatherapy.


She specialises in wholistic patient-centred health care, with special areas of interest including cardiovascular, reproductive, autoimmune and gut health. Jasmine is Mother to a 21-year-old daughter, and is an avid gardener and cook.



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