This post is sponsored by Treato.
For many people, maintaining a regular fitness routine is a daily struggle. Maybe you work long hours, are always tired from taking care of the kids, or simply don’t fancy a morning (or evening) gym session. Whatever your excuse, there’s no denying the long-term health risks associated with a sedentary lifestyle, which include diabetes, heart disease, obesity and certain types of cancer.
Luckily, you don’t have to sacrifice all of your free time in order to stay in decent shape. Although the NHS recommends that all adults aim for 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity on a weekly basis (or 75 minutes of strenuous activity), new research suggests that people can improve their health and fitness with just a few brief workouts a week. How might they accomplish this, you ask? High-intensity interval training.
If you’re unfamiliar with the term, high-intensity interval training, also known as HIIT, involves short, sprint-like bursts of exercise followed by longer, less intense recovery periods. HIIT workouts can include running, cycling, plyometrics exercises, and bodyweight exercises, among other activities.
A typical HIIT workout contains a total of 5-10 minutes of strenuous intervals. However, for a recently published study, a group of Canadian researchers wanted to measure the health benefits of a HIIT session with only one minute of all-out effort.
For this experiment, the researchers assembled a group of 25 young men who described themselves as “out of shape.” The participants were separated into three groups:
- one group who did little to no exercise
- a second group whose endurance routine consisted of a 45-minute session on an exercise bike at a moderate pace
- a third group whose HIIT workout consisted of three 20-second all-out sprints on an exercise bike interspersed with two minutes at a slow pace
Both exercising groups performed their respective workouts three times a week for 12 weeks. At the end of the study, the interval training group had ridden for six hours, with only 36 minutes of strenuous effort, while the other group had ridden for a total of 27 hours. Surprisingly, the fitness gains achieved by the men in both groups were virtually identical.
The results of this study suggest that people who want to reduce the time they spend exercising and still receive the many health benefits should strongly consider HIIT workouts. However, there are two things to consider before you wave goodbye to longer workouts. First, in terms of fitness, you will ultimately see the most progress by incorporating both HIIT and endurance workouts. Secondly, scientists are still in the preliminary stages of determining whether interval training or endurance training is the most effective strategy for losing weight. That said, results from the few studies on this subject that have been completed showed that participants reduced their body fat by comparable amounts using either form of exercise.