How often do you use the excuse, “I just don’t have enough time” in regards to your workout? Trust me, most of us are guilty of it. Whether it be errands around the house, extra work from the office, or scrolling through social media, we all find reasons to skip out on the gym. This is especially true when it comes to cardio, where most fitness programs set a time goal for each workout. The American College of Sports Medicine states we should be engaging in aerobic activity for 20-30 minutes 3-5 times a week, depending on the intensity, but a lot of people find a struggle between balancing cardio with their resistance training program.
High-Intensity Interval Training
Instead of ditching the treadmill, there may be hope for you. High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) offers a solution to most people’s perceived exercise barrier: time. It is what it sounds like; working out at a high intensity for a short period of time and then repeat. People have been utilizing these types of programs for a while, but what’s great is that there’s research out there that supports why you should consider incorporating HIIT type programs into your current workout routine.
Do you have 10 minutes to spare? If so, great, because one study took a look at a 10 minute HIIT cycle program and compared it to 30 minutes of moderate-level cycling. The HIIT group worked out 2-4x/wk at maximal intensities, whereas the moderate-intensity group biked for 3-5x/wk. Yes, 10 minutes of maximal intensity exercise doesn’t sound fun, but over the eight weeks, the HIIT group exercised for only 260 minutes, compared to the moderate-intensity group, which exercised for over 1030 minutes. Think about how many episodes on Netflix you can binge with that time! In all, the HIIT group had more significant improvements in cardiorespiratory fitness, blood pressure, waist circumference, and overall metabolic performance. Not bad results for someone pressed for time.
Now combine that study with one that examined metabolic adaptations during sprint interval training (SIT) compared to traditional endurance training. These researchers had the SIT group perform 4 to 6 repetitions of 30 second all-out sprints on a bike with almost five minutes of recovery between repetitions, 3 times a week. The endurance training group performed exercise bouts of 40-60 minutes of continuous cycling at about at a moderate intensity 5 times per week. This is a HUGE difference in terms of dedicated exercise time (1.5 vs 4.5 hours per week). What did they find? The benefits of the exercise between the groups were quite similar, once again reinforcing the idea of sneaking in a quick bout of exercise to get some decent results.
So not only does HIIT training save you time, but it taps into the phenomenon known as EPOC or excess post-exercise oxygen consumption. Think about how much gas your car burns driving in the city versus on the open road. The constant stop and go put more stress on the engine, and therefore, more fuel consumption. Well, your body is no different. As the body tries to recover after exercise, our oxygen levels remain elevated. The harder you work, the higher the oxygen demand is. Why should you care? This leads to increased energy expenditure, and Skelly et al. found that interval training elicits a similar EPOC demand as 50 minutes of slower endurance exercise. Another reason to go out and go full throttle and reap the rewards of the after-burn.
Want to try a HIIT workout next time you’re at the gym? Give one of these a shot:
- Stationary Bike: 20 seconds all out intensity, 10 seconds to recover. Repeat for 10 rounds.
- Treadmill: 20 second sprint, 40 seconds rest. Repeat for 8 repetitions.
- Hill Sprints: Don’t have cardio equipment at home? Sprint for 20 seconds up a hill, and use the walk back down as your recovery. Repeat 6 times.
- Bodyweight Exercises: Are you a fan of bodyweight exercises? String together your squats, lunges, or pushups into 20 second bouts with 10 seconds in between exercises. Go through 3-5 rounds depending on how many different exercises you have.
Even though HIIT programs offer a lot of benefits, they aren’t for everyone. This type of training requires an adequate training base and mental fortitude, but if you’re ready to embrace the burn, you’ve got plenty of time to squeeze that workout in.