You’re sitting at your desk wondering how, after 8 hours of work, you’ll have time to fit in 60 minutes on the treadmill before attending your son’s soccer game. Suddenly, exercise falls on your list of priorities and you miss yet another exercise session this week. We have all experienced this struggle – an hour at the gym turns into 2 hours of our day when we factor in changing, showering, and the 20 minutes it takes to motivate ourselves to get there. Yes, family obligations and work are always a priority but exercise must be too. With that being said, let’s talk about a solution!
Have you heard of high intensity interval training, commonly referred to as HIIT? HIIT is a time-effective and efficient way to complete exercise. Skip your 60 minute workout on the treadmill today and give HIIT a try!
What is HIIT? HIIT involves intense work periods at 80-95% of a person’s estimated maximal heart rate, matched with recovery periods that are typically around 40-50% of a person’s estimated HRMax. Work periods can last anywhere from 5 seconds to 8 minutes and recovery bouts may be equally as long or even longer. The workout consists of alternating between work and relief periods for anywhere between 20 and 60 minutes.
Why should I do it? HIIT training not only improves aerobic and anaerobic fitness but it also improves blood pressure, cardiovascular health, insulin sensitivity, cholesterol profiles, and abdominal fat and/or body weight, all while maintaining muscle mass. HIIT workouts are growing in popularity because they provide similar benefits as continuous endurance workouts but in shorter periods of time. In addition, HIIT workouts tend to increase caloric expenditure by 6-15%.
How do I do it? Developing a HIIT program involves manipulating the duration, intensity, and frequency of work and recovery intervals. During the high intensity phase of your workout, your heart rate should be ≥ 80% of your estimated HRmax. At this time you should feel like you are working “hard” to “very hard.” During recovery intervals you should be exercising around 40-50% of your HRmax. The relationship between work and recovery intervals is important. Typically a 1:1 ratio is used (3 minutes of work followed by 3 minutes of recovery). However, you could also do a 30 second sprint, followed by ~4 minutes of recovery. You should try out a few different ratios and see which you prefer!
I am not suggesting that you boycott steady state exercise altogether but instead, try and swap out a day or two of your normal routine for a HIIT routine. HIIT is not limited to the treadmill, as it can be modified to outdoor exercise, cycling, the elliptical trainer, and even the stair master. Now, as you sit at your desk and contemplate your workout, doesn’t a 30 minute workout sound a little more feasible?