Work smarter, not harder, saysnaturopath Jeremy Hill.

Wantto get fitter, thinner, healthier, more energetic, loweryour cholesterol, your blood sugar, your blood pressure?Well then, I hope you're ready to work to achieve yourchange. Change is relative -- you know the drill --action and consequence, you get back what you put in...and all that stuff. So if you want a better physiqueor blood test results, you're going to have to stepoutside your comfort zones to achieve your goals.

Recent research is providing some sound evidence thatyou can speed things up a lot as you strive for betterhealth by increasing the intensity of your exercise- stressing the body and inducing an adaptive response.

Researcher Professor Steve Boutcher from the Universityof New South Wales recently found that 20 minutes ofinterval cycling three times a week, alternating ata rate of eight seconds' high intensity peddling with12 second recovery cycling, induced three times theweight loss achieved through 40 minutes of exercisingat a solid pace.

This indicates that challenging the body with intenseexercise induces an adaptive response. Our bodies adaptto our environment as well as they can and, as we providestimuli (change) to that environment, the body registersa biological and physiological response (an environmentaladaptation - or change). There are two tough parts tothis type of program. One is genuinely hitting the highsand pushing as intensely as you can manage - it's easierto be lazy. The other is, as with any exercise program,just a matter of sticking to it (laziness again!)

This approach does, however, have the advantage oftaking up far less time than most exercise programssuggest. People tend to find that it's fairly easy tofit in 20 minutes of intense exercise three times aweek, whereas they find that it's really easy to avoidany exercise session that would last longer than a Simpson'sepisode. With the current suggestions of 30 minutesof exercise daily to maintain health and up to 90 minutesdaily for weight loss, not often being met, we've definitelyfound ourselves in need of a better way.

Most people need to do more, but often use the excuseof time restraints as a reason they can't. For most,more accurately there is something else they would ratherdo with a spare 60-90 minutes a day. So, we need tobe more effective with the time that we have. The answeris to increase intensity and decrease time. If all youhave is 20 minutes, consider the different benefitsobtained from a 20 minute walk, or spending 20 minutesalternating jogging with sprints. If all you can dois walk, then just walk faster - fast enough to be puffing,but still able to talk. But step outside your comfortzone. If you're not working hard then you're probablynot doing much for you.

Increasing intensity works for running, rowing, swimming,cycling, walking, lifting weights (heavier) -- the rangeis broad and adapts to most abilities. Short burstsof high intensity exercise induce a broad array of adaptivebenefits, with improving circulation, blood sugar, musclegrowth and cholesterol being some, but fat burning isproving the most popular gain. The more vigorous levelof activity ensures fat continues to be burnt throughthe day due to an increased metabolic rate.

While it's important to push yourself to see results,it's also important to know your limits. Start slowlyand increase your intensity gradually as you feel comfortable.

Exercise is a crucial part of maintaining health andto fighting illness. Without exercise, the decline intopoor health can sometimes be rapid. Having informednumerous clients of the benefits of various intenseexercise programs and instructed them how best to inducean adaptive response, I'm happy to report that I'vefound the adaptive response theory stacks up well. We'reall busy and high intensity interval training offersa great way to provide us with more spare time and betterresults than any other exercise approach I've seen.

There's a third potential problem with high intensityexercise - the changes may be too intense for a healthyadaptive response to occur, with mal-adaptation insteadcausing injuries. It's always wise to get a thoroughhealth check up before starting a new exercise programand it can be extremely helpful to engage the supportof a personal trainer to help motivate and guide youas you begin and progress.

Start off by motivating yourself to exercise, and thenpush yourself. This will strengthen the body and themind. Throw in the occasional run, a swim or some yogafor variety. Stick with it and keep challenging yourself.Persistence and repetition dictates what and who webecome. We become what we do.

Good Health, Jeremy Hill.

Jeremy Hill (Diploma of Natural Therapy) is a QualifiedNaturopath