Does High Intensity Training Help Prevent Cancer?

The good news is that you don’t need to be a fitness buff to get started with high intensity training. In fact, even if you sit at a desk all day – you can enjoy the amazing benefits of this form of exercise. All it takes is a little knowledge of what to do, set aside some area to do it, and keep at it, even for a little bit of time each day.

What distinguishes high intensity strength training from regular weight-lifting is that it’s a process where you’re trying to generate a stimulus to cause strength and metabolic improvements, as opposed to simply trying to demonstrate strength by lifting the weight by any means possible.

Unfortunately, anywhere from 90 to 98 percent of people who exercise are NOT doing high intensity exercises. By focusing on slow endurance-type exercises, such as running on a treadmill, you actually forgo many of the most profound benefits of exercise.

Mankind evolved performing very high-intensity activities, moving intensely for brief periods of time.

Myokines are a type of a chemical messenger in a class called cytokines. Many of the cytokines we already know about are the kind liberated from adipose tissue, your body fat, particularly the truncal fat mass that gives you that apple-shape. Many of these are inflammatory cytokines.

“All of these are involved in inflammatory and disease states and are cytokines known to be elevated in people who develop cancer. Starting around 2003, they started to realize that muscle was also an active endocrine organ. It produces cytokines of its own, which they ended up terming myokines. (‘Myo’ is jst a Latin root for muscles.) These myokines are very anti-inflammatory and they produce all of the effects that are the antithesis of the metabolic syndrome. They increase your insulin sensitivity. They increase your glucose utilization inside the muscle. 

In terms of cardiovascular benefits, compared to the aerobic version of HIIT, high intensity strength training is actually a bit superior, even though it will typically not bring your heart rate as high. Dr. McGuff gives an excellent explanation for this somewhat counterintuitive phenomenon. I would encourage you to watch the video below to hear him personally explain it.

Ideally, you’d incorporate both versions of high intensity exercises, as they each provide important pieces of the fitness puzzle. For example, you might do conventional HIIT using a stationary bike once or twice a week, and super-slow high intensity weight training once a week—or vice versa, to end up with a total of three high intensity sessions per week.

While you can certainly use gym equipment, you can also get an incredibly high-intensity workout right at home. All you need is a set of dumbbells and a chin-up bar. Here’s one sample workout:

    • With a rubber ball behind your back, hold a dumbbell in each hand, and do a static contraction; keep your hips flexed at 90 degrees and your knees flexed at 90 degrees. Basically, you’re in a sitting position without a chair underneath you and, with a weight in each hand, you simply hold that position statically for as long as you can.
    • Follow this with several very slow deep knee bends (squats). By that time, you’ll be so fatigued that lifting your own body weight will be quite challenging. Do them to failure.
    • Next, use your dumbbells for an overhead shoulder press. Initiate the movement as gradually as you can and then move slowly, pressing the weight upward for 10 seconds or more, and lower it back down over a count of at least 10 seconds. Do not rest at any point. In a short amount of time, you will fatigue your shoulder girdle. Select a weight that you can do 8-10 reps with to failure. If you can do more than 10 reps then you need a heavier weight; if you can’t do 8, you need a lighter weight.
    • Biceps and triceps curls with one weight in each hand.
    • If you have a chin-up bar, do several chin-ups using an underhand grip (palms up), as slowly as you can, until fatigue. If you’re not strong enough to do a chin-up, stand on a chair to reach the top of the bar, and simply hold yourself at the top position for as long as you can.

Using an underhand grip puts you in the strongest position for engaging all the muscles of your torso musculature. When your hand is supinated and at shoulder width, you’re using your bicep in its strongest position. If you have your hands out or pronated, you’re actually using smaller muscles; you’re using your brachialis and brachioradialis that are going to be a weak link in that movement and cause you to fatigue prematurely before you’ve challenged the bigger muscles in your torso.

  • Next, do one standard military-style push-up with your body in plank position. Start with arms straight. Go slowly down until your chest almost touches the floor. Then slowly push back up. If you’re strong enough, use a very slow cadence of 10 seconds down, 10 seconds up. If you’re not strong enough, you can do push-ups from your knee, or you can do them up against the countertop, where your entire plank torso is on an incline to decrease the resistance.

Improving your strength is still most important, and it only gets more important with age. Your risk of falling increases with age primarily due to lack of muscle strength—not because the balance organ in your ear deteriorates. When an elderly person falls, it’s not due to a balance problem; it’s a strength problem, and when you’re older, falling can be lethal…

Article Summary

  • Recent research reveals that myokines—a class of cell-signaling proteins produced by muscle fibers—can combat cancer and metabolic syndrome
  • High intensity training effectively stimulates your muscles to release anti-inflammatory myokines
  • Myokines increase your insulin sensitivity and glucose use inside your muscles. They also increase liberation of fat from adipose cells and the burning of the fat within the skeletal muscle
  • Acting as chemical messengers, myokines inhibit the release and the effect of the inflammatory cytokines produced by body fat. They also significantly reduce body fat irrespective of calorie intake
  • 90-98 percent of people who exercise are NOT doing high intensity exercises. By focusing on slow endurance-type exercises, you actually forgo many of the most profound benefits of exercise

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