No Time to Exercise? Try High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)

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Too busy No time to exercise? Just one minute a day can make a difference.

According to the authors of The One-Minute Workout, very short, intense bursts of exercise may be the most effective form of workout available.

In a recent interview on CBC’s Quirks and Quarks co-author Dr. Martin Gibala said the main reason people cite for not exercising is lack of time. A long-time advocate of high intensity interval training, or HIIT, he began studying the effectiveness of very short but intense workouts.

Popularized in the 1970s, the idea behind HIIT is “train harder, but train less often”. The idea is to go at it hard, back off, and then repeat. Also known as high-intensity intermittent exercise (HIIE) or sprint interval training (SIT), these workouts are known to enhance your athletic capacity and lead to improved glucose metabolism. There is evidence as well that this kind of interval training can help fight the effects of aging.

High intensity training workouts typically require around 30 minutes to complete. But according to Dr. Gibala you may not need to work out nearly that long to get in shape and stay healthy. Just a few minutes of hard effort can do the trick.

Participants in his study were divided into two groups. One group worked out three times a week for 10 minutes at a time. Each 10-minute session included three 20-second intervals of very vigorous exercise. The other group had a more conventional workout schedule: 50 minutes of the more traditional, continuous moderate exercise three times a week.

After several months of training the research team found that the two groups improved by the same extent in all areas tested – cardio-respiratory fitness, insulin sensitivity – which is a measure of how well the body uses blood sugar – and muscle tone. And this is despite the fact that one group was working out five times longer than the other.

How does HIIT work?

The one minute workout really involves three 20-second hard bursts of exercise, carried out within a 10-minute period. As Dr. Gibala describes it, “You have a short warm up then you do those three 20-second very hard sprints with a little bit of recovery in between. And then a short cooldown.” Ten minutes from start to finish.

High intensity interval training isn’t for everyone. If you have any orthopaedic or cardiovascular limitations you’d be better off with a more moderate workout regime. Talk to your health care professional if this is something you’re thinking about trying, especially if you’re over 55.

The take-away here? Even if you don’t have time for a full workout, you can do a lot in a very short time

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