Academic raises health concerns behind ‘fitness fad’ for high intensity workouts

Morc Coulson, sports and exercise lecturer at the University of Sunderland

Published on 06 June 2017

The rising popularity of High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) in recent years could put certain individuals at serious health risks, according to Morc Coulson, a sports and exercise lecturer, whose scientific research has led him to update his handbook on the subject.

Morc has been involved in the health and fitness industry for the past 20 years and   was chair of the CPD panel of SkillsActive, the Sector Skills Council for Active leisure, Learning and Wellbeing, monitoring the delivery of training qualifications for more than ten years.

With the rising popularity for HIIT workouts, also known as interval training or metabolic conditioning, involving short bouts of high intensity exercise followed by a period of rest, Morc has drawn on the latest scientific research behind the routines in the Third Edition of his Fitness Instructor’s Handbook, a complete reference guide for anyone involved in prescribing exercise programmes to personal training clients.

He says: “So much has changed in the Health and Fitness National Occupational Standards and the Qualifications Framework relating to fitness  training over the last 10 years, particularly around healthy eating, since I originally penned the Fitness Instructor’s Handbook, that I wanted to reflect those scientific changes in the third edition.

“There’s a huge area of research around HIIT training, a fitness trend hugely commercial across the world in recent years. The problem with fads is the science behind them often becomes misinterpreted and the general public get drawn into the marketing hype, which becomes the answer or the key to getting fit and losing weight, and it’s actually not always the case.

“I have tried to dispel the myths and talk about the real science about the different intensity levels of exercise and what it does to the body. The book takes a clear view of ‘let’s not get carried away, let’s focus on evidence based research’.”

He adds: “A lot of those who will join a HIIT workout will tend to be people who have not done a great deal of exercise in recent times, so their body is just not used to that level of intensity, therefore they put themselves at serious risk of incidents, specifically heart related, because the intensity level  is so extreme. This is  maximum intensity  training and although there are many  really good instructors there is sometimes a lack of experience and scientific knowledge to be able to  prescribe and monitor the correct intensity appropriate to each individual in the session. As sessions  are often so diverse in terms of the fitness level of participants, for some it’s just not right.

“There’s a moral responsibility to provide the most appropriate type of exercise for the individual.”

The Fitness Instructor’s Handbook, Third Edition, is a resource for students and qualified fitness professionals alike. The handbook covers correct technique, safety points, step-by-step photos and updated references. Other updates reflect the latest changes to the National Occupational Standards for both Level 2 and 3 qualifications.

Morc has written eight books in his Complete Guide Series, a culmination of his knowledge in the area of Health & fitness, which have become key texts for many institutions around the UK and overseas.

For more information on Morc Coulson’s work, go to: http://experts.sunderland.ac.uk/portfolio/morccoulson/