Obesity rates in Australia are among the highest in the world, with one in 4 adults being obese. Obesity increases the risk of coronary heart disease, type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM) and stroke, three of the top five causes of burden of disease and injury in Australia.2 Dietary modification is the mainstay of any weight loss program and has been shown to improve cardiovascular and metabolic risk factors including blood pressure, lipids, serum glucose, glycated haemoglobin (HbA1c) and insulin levels as well as reducing risk of acute coronary syndromes, stroke and all cause mortality. Exercise has been shown to be an important additional strategy to a weight loss program. However, in Australia, nearly 40% of males and 60% of females carry out insufficient daily physical activity.
Aerobic exercise has a marked impact on cardiovascular disease risk. Benefits include improved serum lipid profiles, blood pressure and inflammatory markers as well as reduced risk of stroke, acute coronary syndrome and overall cardiovascular mortality. Most exercise programs prescribed for fat reduction involve continuous, moderate aerobicexercise, as per Australian Heart Foundation clinical guidelines.
This article describes the benefits of exercise for patients with cardiovascular and metabolic disease and details the numerous benefits of high intensity interval training (HIIT) in particular.
Aerobic exercise has numerous benefits for high-risk populations and such benefits, especially weight loss, are amplified with HIIT. High intensity interval training involves repeatedly exercising at a high intensity for 30 seconds to several minutes, separated by 1-5 minutes of recovery (either no or low intensity exercise). HIT is associated with increased patient compliance and improved cardiovascular and metabolic outcomes and is suitable for implementation in both healthy and 'at risk' populations. Importantly, as some types of exercise are contraindicated in certain patient populations and HIIT is a complex concept for those unfamiliar to exercise, some patients may require specific assessment or instruction before commencing a HIIT program.