"Unprecedented" is a word we've all heard enough of. A global pandemic is a first for everyone. We're all fighting through and doing our best to make it out alive and healthy, both physically and mentally. Unfortunately, suicide rates and mental health disorders have increased since the start of COVID-19.
Obesity and psychiatric disorders have been steadily on the rise and have seen a sharp increase since the start of the pandemic.
Life has changed drastically with more individuals working from home, further isolating themselves and becoming sedentary. This takes a toll on our psychological and physical health. More time sitting behind a computer comes with drastic consequences.
"A growing body of evidence suggests that spending too many hours sitting is hazardous to your health. Habitual inactivity raises risks for obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, deep-vein thrombosis, and metabolic syndrome."
It's hard to argue against the stranglehold our devices have on us. What was your average screen time in the last week? Mine was over four hours per day! I need to get my priorities straight.
As advanced as we like to pretend that we are, humans are animals designed to exert energy, take in natural sunlight, and challenge ourselves physically.
The good news is that exercise has been proven to have a positive impact on mental health. While steady state endurance workouts and lower intensity exercise can help, I am a big proponent of shorter, more intense workouts, particularly HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) and the lesser-known protocol called SIIT (Sprint Intensity Interval Training).
Both are proven methods to counteract these issues, plus they can be more effective in less time than long, easier workouts. One of the many things this pandemic has taught us to value and not take for granted is our time. By engaging in shorter bouts of high intensity training, we can accomplish the same goal while saving time for other priorities.
"People who exercise have better mental fitness, and a new imaging study from UC Davis Health System shows why. Intense exercise increases levels of two common neurotransmitters -- glutamate and gamma-aminobutyric acid, or GABA -- that are responsible for chemical messaging within the brain.”
If you are struggling with your mental health, regularly performing HIIT should be a non-negotiable part of your life.
HIIT does require a safe and effective approach, however. First things first, consult with your doctor before beginning a new workout regimen.
When I start working with clients that need to improve their physical and mental health, hard exercise is the first priority. Integrating HIIT training needs to be done carefully and gradually. Finding a qualified trainer, coach or knowledgeable workout buddy is a fantastic choice. Sometimes we don’t have that option for in-person training in a gym.
If you lack access to a trainer, iFIT is an industry leading program available right on the Matrix touchscreen consoles. You'll get commercial-quality equipment synced to over 16,000 studio classes and global destination workouts, all led by the world's most inspiring trainers that will guide you through interval training.
Having the proper home fitness equipment to train safely and effectively is crucial if that’s the route you’re going to go. Matrix Home Fitness offers a variety of top-quality options that are designed to sustain intense intervals. The 50 Series exercise bikes, ellipticals and Ascent Trainers are particularly effective at HIIT and SIIT workouts because the resistance can change instantly between your high intensity and recovery intervals.
The Sprint 8 program built into the Matrix consoles is a time saver at just 20 minutes including warm-up and cool-down. Plus, since it's a SIIT workout, it's a real butt-kicker! There's even an option to follow the program with Coach Phil, the inventor of Sprint 8, coaching you along the way. It's been proven to increase telomere length, which is a direct indication of improved physical health.
HIIT exercise may have saved my life.
It’s important to position a broken nose quickly before the bones set.
I grabbed the popsicle sticks off the kitchen counter again. My home remedy involved pressing a stick to each side of my nose and manipulating the swollen silly putty back into something resembling a human feature. Strangely enough, I enjoyed it. All of it.
I had fallen head over heels for the intensity that boxing brought into my life. The pain of training, broken bones, and wars in the gym. The grueling road work, isolation, and oppressive demands of a combat sport were intoxicating. Before boxing, I was lost and headed down a path of self-destruction.
What I hadn’t realized until after my boxing career ended, was that the training is what made me feel so alive and powerful. Boxing is a high intensity sport; naturally split into intervals we know as rounds. Preparing to fight means performing HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training).
This type of training saved me from my days of hard partying and poor behavior patterns that claimed the lives of many childhood friends. It also set a foundation for helping others overcome life’s challenges in my career as a fitness professional.
I credit the intense physical training I learned long ago for the mental and physical toughness that has helped me through the pandemic.
Intense training leaves me with a sense of fulfillment, inner peace and physical relaxation like nothing else; all of which are necessary to battle mental health challenges.
Take charge of your health.
Achieving and maintaining optimal physical and mental fitness will never be easy. But it will always be relevant in your life, as tough times are an unavoidable part of the human journey.
Don’t feel like you must go run a marathon or bike 100 miles.
Write a game plan and create appointments for yourself to exercise daily. Start with just 20-minute workouts. But two to three times per week, make those 20 minutes really count with intervals of high intensity, followed by recovery intervals.
Don’t feel alone. Lean on friends, family and the professionals you have access to.
Meditate, get out into nature and pursue hobbies that feed your soul.
Lastly, invest in yourself because this is the only body you get! It’s time for you to take charge of your health.
About the Author
Chad Yarvitz, Matrix Master Trainer, USA
Chad is the owner and president of a successful studio gym located in San Diego, CA. His professional training facility is ranked among the top gyms in the region, specializing in boxing fusion classes incorporating strength and cardio. Chad is a 2008 California Golden Glove Champion, has trained with boxing legend Freddie Roach and has been a sparring partner for world champions such as Amir Khan, Ray Beltran and Mauricio Herrera. Chad is a NASM Certified Personal Trainer.