You might be surprised to see how, when done well, you too could benefit from a daily workout.
When you’re really busy (and who’s life isn’t these days?) exercise might be the last of your priorities. If you can’t commit to going to the gym three times a week or going for a half hour run every day then you’re not going to benefit, so why bother?
Well it turns out that short bursts of exercise have more impact than you think on your health, fitness, weight and body composition.
In 2011 Dr Niels Vollard at Bath University conducted a trial in which subjects did short (10-20 second) bursts of intense cycling sandwiched between a couple of minutes gentle cycling to warm up and cool down.
Both male and female subjects showed marked improvements in aerobic fitness, and insulin sensitivity.
In another study conducted by McMaster University in Ontario, showed that overweight or obese individuals who performed just 60 seconds of all-out intermittent exercise per week for 6 weeks improved their endurance levels by about 12 per cent, had better blood pressure levels, improved muscle activity, and the male participants also improved their blood sugar control.
HIIT makes your muscles produce new and more efficient mitochondria, the tiny power factories in your cells that convert glucose into useable energy.
The more mitochondria you have, the more power they produce and the more fat and sugar they consume.
The stress caused by HIIT also leads to the release of large amounts of catecholamines – which are hormones such as adrenaline and noradrenaline – that target fat cells, particularly those in the abdomen.
The type of exercise you do also appears to affect hunger levels and therefore the amount of calories consumes following working out.
An Australian study involving overweight men in their 20s and early 30s found that the men ate fewer calories after doing very high-intensity workouts (594 calories) than after moderate exercise.
Fewer calories were also consumed the following day; 2,000 after HIIT compared to 2,300 after a session of moderate intensity exercise.
The deal is that if you’re going to work out for such a short time, you’ve got to make it worth it, putting in maximum effort and as high intensity as you can manage.
No pacing yourself, you shouldn’t be able to hold a conversation and it should feel like the hardest workout you ever did.
But knowing it’s over after a mere one minute should make it feel that much more worthwhile and manageable.
And you should probably aim to do it every day, perhaps first thing in the morning to get it over with. And a trick is to use different muscles on each day so that you’re giving each muscle group at least a day to recover.
For the very unfit, overweight, or people with medical conditions working out at this intensity may not be possible at first. If you are extremely unfit it would be wise to have a medical check-up before starting any form of exercise.
However ‘intense’ is a relative term and if walking briskly for 20 seconds followed by standing still for 30 seconds and repeating that pattern a few times is intense, then that’s a starting point and you can work towards more difficult exercises.
Studies of nearly 5,000 patients with a history of heart conditions and strokes have found HIIT to be perfectly safe.
Of course these great results HIIT gets aren’t to prove you needn’t bother working out more than 60 seconds or that for the best body composition or performance goals you don’t need to obviously put in more work than that.
But if 60 seconds is literally all you can spare, do it the right way and you’ll get a surprising amount from one minute a day.
All the workouts can be done at home or outside with no or minimal equipment, since I doubt you’ll be wanting to go to the gym for 60 seconds a day!
20 seconds of full body press ups, 10 seconds rest, 20 seconds full body press ups, 10 seconds mountain climbers.
Make it harder: Make them plyometric press ups.
10 seconds sprint, 10 seconds rest, repeat 6 times.
Make it harder: increase to 20 seconds sprint, 10 seconds rest, and do it twice.
Do a full minute, squatting as low as you can.
Make it harder: use heavier weights.
15 seconds of burpees, as fast as you can with proper form, 5 seconds rest, repeat three times.
Make it harder: hold a dumbbell in each hand while you do them.
Try to do a whole minute of jump squats. Take a 5 second rest after 30 seconds if you need to.
Make it harder: hold a dumbbell in each hand while you jump.
Go as fast as you can for a full minute while getting your knees as close to your elbows as possible (no half bicycles!).
Make it harder: wrist and ankle weights mean your core needs to work even harder.
10 seconds bent over dumbbell rows, 10 seconds tricep extensions, 10 seconds reverse dumbbell flyes. Repeat all.
Make it harder: increase the weight of the dumbbell.