Don't have time to exercise?

High-intensity interval training offers greater benefits in less time than a conventional workout.

There’s a new buzz in exercise and it’s promising less time commitment with a high calorie burn, along with all the other positive benefits that are associated with exercise. This approach is claiming any age can begin practicing this routine and gain benefits. If you haven’t heard yet, it’s called High-Intensity Interval training or HIIT exercise.

HIIT exercise is intense, short periods with long periods of rest. This higher intensity exercise pushes the body into anaerobic levels. Most people are used to exercising over a longer period of time at a slower rate of pace with aerobic exercise when they walk, bike or swim for example. Most of us have only thought of exercise as being a long time commitment at a lower intensity, then often using a lack of time as the excuse to not regularly participate. 

By incorporating short intense exercise bouts, this excuse may have to drop out of your arsenal. These short periods of exercise yield greater benefits in less time than a conventional moderately paced workout. For individuals who find it boring to do a slow more continuous workout, this may be something they would like to try and which may help make sticking to an exercise program easier in the long run.

In addition, this type of exercise can be accomplished at any age and benefits people with chronic conditions, which tend to afflict older people, such as heart disease, diabetes and pulmonary disease. HIIT forces the heart and lungs to work harder during increased exercise load to the working body. This helps with increasing muscle fiber usage to 80 – 100 percent when compared to walking that uses 50 percent muscle fiber.

An article by the American College of Sports Medicine has these tips for starting a HIIT exercise program:

  • Consider the duration, frequency and intensity of the work intervals and the recovery intervals. These short, intense workouts can be done with any type of exercise like walking, biking, swimming, running or cross country skiing. 
  • Any exercise can be used as long as there is a possibility of intensifying the workout for short periods.
  • Intensity should be 80 percent of your maximum heart rate (220 – age). You should feel like you’re working very hard.
  • The recovery period should be 40 – 50 percent of your maximum heart rate or a slowing down of movement to feel completely recovered.
  • The ratio of exercise to recovery will improve different energy systems of the body. For example, a ratio of 1:1 might be a 3-minute hard work (or high intensity) bout followed by a 3-minute recovery (or low intensity) bout. These 1:1 interval workouts often range about 3, 4, or 5 minutes followed by an equal time in recovery.

Another popular HIIT training protocol is called the “sprint interval training method”. With this type of program, the exerciser does about 30 seconds of ‘sprint or near full-out effort’, which is followed by 4 to 4.5 minutes of recovery. This combination of exercise can be repeated 3 to 5 times. These higher intensity work efforts are typically shorter bouts (30 seconds with sprint intervals).

So now you’re starting to wonder how you’ve ever lived without short intense bouts of exercise and how to put a HIIT program together. Michigan State University Extension advises speaking with your physician before starting any exercise program. Remember to have your exercise program fit your needs allowing you to work at your own pace and not the pace of others. Exercise is an important and necessary part of all of our lives so finding what works for you and doing any form of exercise daily will pay you back ten-fold. 

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