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Orange Theory

Posted 4/23/2018 by UHBlog

Every fitness craze comes with some hype, but is there substance behind it? Talk to us about what really works.

People doing pushups in exercise class

At Orangetheory Fitness, 84 is the magic number. This is the heart rate “orange zone” athletes attempt to hit and maintain while interval training. The goal is to stimulate post-exercise oxygen consumption – or EPOC – to help athletes continue to burn calories long after the workout is over.

According to physical therapist Heather Henry, this theory is nothing new. There’s science behind focusing on your heart rate while working out.

“High-intensity interval training, or HIIT, is the most effective way to stimulate EPOC,” Henry says. “Just like after a long trip (where) your car’s engine stays warm as it gradually cools to a resting temperature, your body continues to burn calories after you exercise to return to its normal, resting state.”

EPOC can last anywhere from 15 minutes to 48 hours and your energy expenditure can range from 50 to 200 calories, she says.

HIIT workouts may not last as long as a steady-paced workout, but they can improve your:

  • Body composition
  • Fitness
  • Acute resting metabolic rate

To be considered HIIT, your workout should alternate between short, intense bursts of cardio and less intense recovery periods.

“Your intervals should go from 70 to 90 percent of your maximum heart rate and active rest periods of 60 to 65 percent of your maximum heart rate,” Henry says. “The seasoned athlete may work at or up to 90 percent max heart rate, but the average exerciser should keep below the 85 percent zone.”

Exercising in a way that stimulates EPOC can help you lose weight and get in better shape, but before you begin Henry says it’s important to keep the following in mind:

  1. Intensity: “Exercise intensity is the main contributor to EPOC, though longer sessions can elicit a greater EPOC response,” says Henry.
  2. Time efficiency: HIIT training doesn’t take as much time as moderate, continuous training and may have better results.
  3. Accessibility: You don’t have to be young and healthy to participate.
    “Researchers have found that HIIT can improve health and fitness for just about everyone and has additional benefits for older adults, namely reversing signs of aging within cells,” says Henry.
  4. Environment: “It’s a personal choice to decide how you’ll feel motivated to work at the intensity level needed to reap the benefits of HIIT training,” Henry says. “Group classes may help some to feel accountable and work harder than they would on their own.”

Although high-intensity interval training can be beneficial to people of all ages, Henry suggests speaking with a physician and including mobility and flexibility exercises in your training plan for injury prevention.

“I always recommend that you speak to your physician about the safety of executing a new exercise routine, especially if you are pregnant or have co-morbidities,” she says.

T3 Performance, an athletic training center in Avon, Ohio that is part of University Hospitals Rehabilitation Services, is a good resource to work with a professional who can help you develop a fitness routine tailored to your skill level. To request an appointment with a UH rehab specialist or physical therapist at T3 Performance, call 440-328-3499.

Heather Henry, PT, DPT, SCS, OCS, FAAOMPT, is a physical therapist at University Hospitals Avon Health Center and is located at T3 Performance in Avon. You can request an appointment with Henry or any other health care provider online.

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