20 minutes of exercise could be all you need – less is really more!

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Experts now say that less is really more in terms of the amount of exercise you need to get good results.  Say goodbye to long hours in the gym and farewell to the monotonous pounding of pavements to get fit and stay in shape.  To get the results you want, fitness experts now recommend High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) is the key and best of all you don’t need to do much or go to the gym to do it.

What is HIIT?

HIIT consists of short bursts of intensive physical activity followed by short periods of recovery.  HIIT can burn calories faster and for longer, build muscle and boost endurance – impressive results achieved with just 20 minutes a day.  The key to success is getting the right level of intensity which for most is usually outside their training comfort zone.

Sean Bartram, fitness expert and author of the book “High Intensity Interval Training for Women,” said to find the right level level people should, ‘Think about what it’s like being chased by a rabid dog and the level you need is just below that.  In order to gain maximum benefits you have to push your body to a place that it’s uncomfortable.’

The American College of Sports Medicine predicts HIIT will be a top fitness trend in 2015 and Sean Bartram said people are drawn to it for its efficiency and with almost endless variety of exercises you can do.  The bursts of exercise can take any form for example:-

  • Running – up and down a few stairs, on the spot or running on a trampoline
  • Spot jumps/jumping jacks
  • Press ups
  • Cycling
  • Skipping
  • Swimming lengths/widths

Pretty much any form of physical activity with a recovery period that is a rest or slower paced movements ‘works’.

A typical HIIT workout

“You could alternate 30 seconds of e.g sprinting with 30 seconds of walking.  Similarly you could engage in a series of body weight exercises such as push-ups, doing each for 30 seconds with 10 seconds of rest in between,” said Bartram.  Dr. Olson, a Professor of Exercise Science in Alabama reported exercise is not high intensity unless the heart rate is elevated to near 90+ percentage of its maximum. “Many people think they are engaging in HIIT but they are really doing traditional interval training, where the heart rate is around 75 to 85 percent of max,” she said.

How to work out your heart range – the Karvonen formula

Below is an example of the Karvonen formula for John, a 25 yr old who has a resting heart rate of 65, wanting to know his training heart rate for the intensity level 60% – 90% range.

Note: to get your resting heart rate, take your pulse for one full minute when you first wake up in the morning or after you’ve been resting for a while.

Example – Training Heart Rate Zone

John’s Minimum Training Heart Rate calculation:
220 – 25 (John’s Age) = 195
195 – 65 (John’s Resting Heart Rate) = 130
130 x .60 (Min. Intensity) + 65 (John’s Resting Heart Rate) = 143 Beats/Minute

John’s Maximum Training Heart Rate calculation:
220 – 25 (John’s Age) = 195
195 – 65 (John’s Resting Heart Rate) = 130
130 x .90 (Max. Intensity) + 65 (John’s Resting Heart Rate) = 182 Beats/Minute

John’s Training Heart Rate Zone will therefore be 143-182 beats per minute.  As you get fitter your resting heart rate will change, especially for those of you who are very unfit, so its a good idea every few weeks to do a recalculation based on your new resting heart rate. This adjustment means your exercising range is specific to your fitness levels no matter how fit or unfit you are.  The range is based on your heart activity not someone else’s.

Benefits of HIIT

Dr Olson said that if done properly, HIIT can increase the effectiveness in losing abdominal fat and prompt favorable changes in cholesterol and insulin levels. Furthermore Dr Olsen also said that there was research showing that you can cut your exercise time nearly in half – research has shown about 20 minutes of HIIT can reap similar benefits to doing 35 to 40 minutes of moderate, steady-state cardio, so less really is more!

Anyone who is thinking about starting any form of exercise including HIIT should get advice from their medical practitioner about the appropriateness based on their specific medical history.

If this article raises any questions or queries then please get professional advice from your GP or a suitably qualified health professional.

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About the Author:

Derby Chiropractor Ian Reed and co founder of WellBeing Clinics Derby