It almost sounds too good to be true! Exciting new research seems to suggest that we can get most if not all of the health benefits of exercise without having to spend hours and hours of our precious time in the gym each week. It appears as little as a few minutes a week of intense exercise, sometimes referred to as HIT (High-Intensity Exercise) might be all you have to do.
The health benefits
Health benefits of HIT include burning fat without muscle loss, lowering blood pressure, and decreasing risks of heart disease and type 2 diabetes. One of the reasons short bursts of exercise are so beneficial is that for several hours after very intense exercise, the body continues to burn calories at a higher rate than after long periods of less intense exercise.
Our evolutionary past
HIT actually makes sense from an evolutionary perspective. Humans were hunter-gatherers for thousands of years. In order to successfully hunt or avoid predators we would most certainly have had to run as intensely as we possibly could, but this would have involved quick burst of intense exercise. Going for a long jog would have been a waste of precious energy.
What type of intense exercise should you do?
To get the health benefits of HIT you’ll need to exercise as hard as you can, perhaps in three twenty second bursts a day, three or more time a week – a grand total of 3 minutes exercise a week.
If you are looking for exercises you can do in short, intensive bursts, then here’s a whole list of ideas:
- peddling as fast as you can on an exercise bike
- sprinting or swimming as fast as you can
- sprinting up the stairs a few times
- intense bodyweight exercises such as push-ups, squats or lunges
- rowing as hard and fast as you are able on a rowing-machine
Remember, all that’s needed is around 20 seconds of intense effort, around three times a day, for a minimum of three days each week. Each burst of exercise needs to be as intense as you can possibly manage. If you suffer from an existing medical condition, or are very unfit you should check with your doctor before starting any new exercise regime. You may need to build up the intensity of your exercises gradually.
So why not give it a try?
Perhaps the best thing about HIT is that it is so easy for everyone to incorporate into their daily lives and does not require a long