Peak 8: the anti-ageing workout

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In a recent column I talked about a high-intensity interval training method called the TABATA protocol: what it is; why it's better than traditional forms of 'steady state' cardio exercise; how to do it; and the reasons why it is so good for you.

Put up your hand if you were game enough to give it a go, and give yourself an extra pat on the back if you still include TABATA in your regular exercise program!

Today I’m going to share with you another style of interval training I use with my clients, and also train myself, called Peak 8. So if you’re in the market for a workout that will help stop the clock and give you the biggest fitness return on your time and energy investment, read on!

If I told you there was a tablet that would make you feel vibrant, decrease body fat, minimise wrinkles, increase energy, increase bone density, tone muscles, lower blood pressure, and slow down the ageing process, would you take it?

What would you do to get your hands on it? Would you sacrifice one hour a week to enjoy all those benefits? What if I told you that you could have it right now, because the 'tablet' I’m talking about is a hormone our pituitary gland produces called Human Growth Hormone (HGH). For millennia, people have been searching for the fountain of youth, that one thing that will keep us healthy, vibrant, wrinkle-free and lean. We now know that we already have it within us.

After doing its chief job of helping us grow from a helpless newborn baby to a strong, healthy, functioning adult, the level of HGH in our bodies begins to decline when we hit about the age of 30. Our metabolism slows, and we start to wear the dietary indiscretions we used to easily burn off when we were 20. Between the ages of 40 and 65, our muscle strength declines, along with our vision and hearing. Our joints start to ache as the cartilage starts to wear away. Our late 50s to early 60s may bring some cognitive decay, and the wrinkles in our face become deeper. Moving into our late 60s and beyond, our bones may become brittle, and osteoporosis may set in. At this point, the levels of HGH in our bodies are only one-fifth or less of what they were during youth.

Sounds ominous.

But we do have a way of minimising the effects of diminishing HGH levels ... by increasing our natural production of HGH through exercise, specifically of the high-intensity variety.

Exercise is a potent stimulus for growth hormone release, and a single bout of high-intensity exercise can result in marked elevations in circulating HGH concentrations. However, the magnitude of the HGH response to exercise is dependent on the level of intensity, so it is imperative that for maximum results you go as hard as possible during your session. The amount of time you put into your workout is far less important than the effort you put in, so you can benefit from as little as a 1 hour commitment each week.

It’s important to be mindful of your current fitness level and not overdo it when you first start out, so if you are new to exercise you might want to start with just two or three repetitions of the following prescription, and work your way up to eight.

Although low-intensity exercise such as walking provides other benefits to health, it has no effect on growth hormone production, so do the hard work I suggest below and reap the rewards of a younger and fitter you!

So, here’s how to do Peak 8

  1. Choose your exercise. You can run, skip, row, cycle, go on the cross-trainer or stepper. You can even do Peak 8 with strength training exercises, but they are much more advanced and more challenging to work at the required intensity level.
  2. Warm up for three minutes.
  3. Go as hard and fast as you can for 30 seconds. You should be absolutely spent at the end of the interval an unable to go for even one second longer! 
  4. Recover for 90 seconds by going at a slower pace and decreased resistance. The further I go into the workout, the harder it is to recover, so I stop completely until I catch my breath enough to keep going (within the 90 seconds).
  5. Repeat the high intensity sprints and recovery seven more times, making it a total of eight cycles.
  6. Cool-down for two minutes.

The total time for this workout is 20 minutes, and I recommend a frequency of three times a week, making it a one-hour total time commitment. Who hasn’t got one hour a week to improve their health, fitness, longevity and body composition? 

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Mareike Bout is a qualified and registered personal trainer who specialises in holistic fitness and lifestyle coaching. She is a recognised leader in the industry, receiving the peer-voted South Australia Personal Trainer of the Year award in 2008. She is also a regular guest on Adelaide’s top-rating radio station FIVEaa. Mareike runs her personal training business, One Life Live Well, both online and from a private studio in Adelaide. Services include one-on-one training, outdoor group fitness, lifestyle coaching and weight-loss programs. Individually tailored programs encompass aspects of exercise, nutrition, relaxation, positive thinking, life balance, and goal setting. Her approach is to guide, support and educate her clients so that they posses the tools required to live a life of health, strength and vitality!