It happens every year.
In early January, gyms are flooded with couch potatoes who’ve vowed to finally get in shape. They exercise religiously for the first few weeks, but by the middle of February, most have disappeared. It’s a depressingly short gym lifecycle. However, researchers may have discovered a method that can help new gym-goers stick to a program over the long haul.
A new study from McMaster University found that inactive people found high intensity interval training (HIIT) more enjoyable than moderate continuous training. The participants were sedentary young adults.
To conduct the study, researchers split the participants into two groups, one that used HIIT for six weeks and the other that used moderate continuous training. Those who engaged in HIIT reported that they enjoyed the exercise significantly more than members of the other group. What’s especially interesting is that the HIIT group’s enjoyment levels actually increased gradually over the six-week period, while the moderate continuous training group’s enjoyment levels either remained constant or decreased over time.
If you don’t want your new year’s resolution to fizzle out by mid-February, HIIT could be your answer.
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HIIT is a form of exercise that mixes quick bouts of intense or all-out effort with short periods of rest. Intervals are performed at an intensity of at least 80 percent of your max heart rate. HIIT workouts force you to exercise at or above your VO2 max, promoting rapid improvements in conditioning. High intensity activity burns more calories faster than cardio workouts like jogging, causing the body to continue burning calories even after the workout is finished.
One of the most popular forms of HIIT is the Tabata workout, which involves eight 20-second sets of intense activity interspersed with 10-second rest periods. Traditionally, this style of training calls for an endurance exercise like sprinting or biking. However, the concept has been applied to strength exercises such as Squats, Push-Ups and Burpees, to simultaneously improve strength, endurance and overall fitness.
Moderate continuous exercise is exactly what it sounds like—long, uninterrupted exercise performed at moderate effort. Hopping on a treadmill and jogging at the same pace for 30 minutes is one example of moderate continuous exercise. This is a common fitness strategy for those who may be new to the gym, since it’s simple and there’s little chance of embarrassing or injuring yourself.
“For sedentary individuals, a key barrier to starting an exercise program is the preconceived notion that exercising is not enjoyable. Failing to find enjoyment from exercise can make it more difficult to stick to an exercise program over time,” says Jennifer Heisz, an assistant professor in the Department of Kinesiology at McMaster and lead author of the study. “Enjoyment during these first few weeks of adopting a new exercise program may be especially important for preventing dropouts.”
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