Finding the motivation to get to the gym can be hard. If hour-long workouts leave you feeling exhausted, try firing up your fitness routine with short workouts that won’t leave you gasping for breath and looking for a comfy place to nap when you’re done. With a shorter time commitment required and some solid scientific evidence to back them up, high-intensity interval training sessions might be the best way for you to work out.
Shorter time commitment
High-intensity interval training (HIIT) can be done in about half the time of typical hour-long workouts, making them easier to fit into our busy schedules. HIIT enthusiasts engage in short, intense bursts of exercise with a recovery period between bursts. Depending on your fitness level, these recovery periods may be fairly active with less intense exercise, or they may provide a complete rest with no exercise to give you a chance to catch your breath.
Great for beginners
If you’re trying to get back into the swing of things, HIIT can be a great way to get going. Since it takes less time to complete, and it can be modified to fit your needs, HIIT can be used as an introduction to exercise. HIIT sessions scale according to your needs and abilities, so as you become more accustomed to the workout, you can increase the intensity and personalize exercises as you see fit. As an added bonus, people report feeling the effects of HIIT training fairly quickly. Who doesn’t like a little extra motivation?
In a study published in the Journal of Applied Physiology, researchers found that two weeks of HIIT sessions boosted metabolic rates and showed a significant increase in fat oxidation in moderately active women. Fat oxidation is required to burn fat, and when paired with an increased metabolism, people experience noticeable weight loss.
Combat heart disease and diabetes
You don’t have to dedicate yourself to hour-long workouts to benefit from cardiovascular exercise. In a study published in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, 12 weeks of HIIT sessions improved subjects’ cardiorespiratory fitness as well as their glucose tolerance. Improved glucose tolerance can help guard us against type 2 diabetes. The study recommends prolonged training for those combatting obesity, but HIIT seems to be a good way to jumpstart our health.
Support for your bones
As we age, our bones become more fragile. It’s well documented that exercise can help us retain bone strength, and HIIT is just one way to help support our skeletal structure. In a study published in The Journal of Physiology, researchers found that low-volume HIIT sessions promoted the growth of skeletal muscle tissue in as little as two-weeks. The evidence suggests that HIIT workouts give people the same benefits as more traditional endurance training exercises that can sometimes last for an hour or more each session.
More isn’t always better
In the end, it’s important to remember that sometimes we can have too much of a good thing. According to the American Council on Exercise, it’s possible to overtrain. Pushing a workout to an hour-long session could be doing more harm than good. Over time, you may see a reduced rate of performance. Exhaustion can cause you to react in a far more emotional way than normal, simply because you’re tired. Hour-long workouts can also cause our perception to shift: Even if we’re not exerting more effort, it will feel that way if we push ourselves too far. Other effects of overtraining include insomnia, increased frequency of illnesses and overall malaise.
When you’re working to improve your health, the effort includes all parts of your body and mind. Pushing yourself to an hour-long workout, which leaves you feeling run down or emotionally defeated at the end, isn’t the answer. Instead, try some interval training next time you hit the gym. Your body and mind will thank you for it.
What aspect of HIIT do you find most appealing? What is your favorite way to approach energizing workouts?
-The Alternative Daily