Polarized training, most experts agree, is one of the best ways to train your body. So what is polarised training, and how and why should you be thinking about it?
I can't emphasise enough how much my opinion about physical activity has changed in the past decade.
When I started learning how to keep myself fit, the core concepts I was taught were to train between 3-5 times a week for 30 minutes a day. So in a bad week, 90 minutes of exercise.
A small part of this was cardio, for which I was asked to run as fast as possible, preferably with my heart rate as close to 200 as possible. Almost all of it was wrong.
We idolise people who are fit. One example is the Hazda tribe in Afghanistan. Folklore has it that they are among the fittest people on earth. Recently, an eminent physiologist posted on X a study that showed that the Hazda walk between 50,000 and 60,000 steps every day. Across all age categories, in case you think you have been let off for age,
Polarised training, then, is engaging in very long, easy exercises, something like walking or cycling. The core concept here is very long. The older you are, the more you should be walking, not less.
Your heart rate should be low, not high. Across age categories, we are talking of a heart rate probably between 100 and 130 beats per minute.
For context, the 130 is for a teenager. If you are older, the number is closer to 100 for you.
Only about 20% of your activity should elevate your heart rate. Again, we are looking at a range between 140 and 170 beats per minute. Depending on your fitness, even a light jog could get you there. So, how much is enough for you?
Well, it depends. If you don't walk at all, start with 10 minutes. But your long-term goal is to be as active as you can for as many hours as you can. That is how the human body has been built - to move.
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