When you spend eight or more hours a day at work and even more time commuting back and forth, the time you have to spend with your family, to get your work wardrobe cleaned and pressed, and to get stuff done around the house can feel pretty minimal. If you want to have a social life, it might feel like getting in a daily workout is way out of reach.
If you have a gym at your workplace, that will certainly help you fit it all in, but even then, you don’t want your gym time taking up all of your lunch break -- that is, if you’re getting a regular lunch break to yourself. Lots of people use lunch time to run errands or meet clients. The truly time-crunched simply work through the lunch hour because they’re swamped with work.
If any of that sounds like you, high-intensity interval training, called "HIIT" for short, can really help you out. The "high intensity" part means the workouts don’t take long at all, and that means you won’t have to sacrifice that lunch meeting or skip out on work to fit in a workout.
These exercise sessions works like this: after a brief warm-up that elevates your heart rate beyond resting levels, you’ll push your body to near-maximum intensity for a very short period of time. Following that, you’ll spend about the same amount of time doing an easy recovery session.
By doing this several times, you’ll have the ability to increase your aerobic capacity, or the amount of oxygen your body uses -- a marker of physical fitness. What’s more, you’ll be increasing your metabolism for up to 24 hours, helping you to burn fat long after your workout is done.
In recent years, researchers have found increasing evidence that these short bursts of intense exercise, as opposed to long, steady-state exercise, can be an overall more effective workout.
HIIT workouts don’t have to be complicated, and you can do them with nearly any form of exercise. Walking and sprinting are common, but you can also cycle, swim, row or use other cardio machines such as the elliptical trainer.
Here’s how to structure it. After warming up at a slow pace for a minute or two, you’ll speed up your pace to a sprint or near-maximum intensity for anywhere from 30 seconds to two minutes. Typically, this is an intensity level of about eight on a scale of one to 10. Then you’ll slow back down to that warmup pace -- about a five on the scale of one to 10 -- for another 30 seconds to two minutes. Repeat it as many times as you can, though most people can last between four and eight rounds.
If you opt for one-minute intervals and six rounds, you’ll have done an entire workout in roughly 14 minutes, including a two-minute warmup.
That short workout will be all you need to keep you in shape -- and what could be better for the overworked and time-crunched among us?
Image courtesy Beverley Goodwin