There's no denying we live in an age of efficiency. Everyone has more on their plates than ever and people often use that as an excuse for not taking care of their health. What if I told you that you could get all the benefits exercise entails without spending more than an hour a week? It's understandable that for most of us, an hour a day at the gym isn't sustainable. But who doesn't have time for an intense 20-minute, endorphin-boosting workout session three times a week?
The excuse for a lack of time is wiped away when we look at the effectiveness of high intensity interval training (HIIT). The metabolic and cardiovascular benefits of this form of training exceed conventional workout wisdom. Many people are under the impression that fat burning only occurs after the body has been in training mode for at least 30 minutes. Thus the stationary bikes and treadmills remain consistently occupied at your local gym. The studies done on HIIT point to a different reality and show that show bursts of 60 seconds or less of our maximum energy output with an equal period of rest, repeated for 6-10 cycles is actually more effective at burning fat.
There's a growing body of evidence that shows HIIT to be as effective as endurance training in far less time. Since it requires less of a time investment, we're more likely to stick to a HIIT regime as opposed to a more involved exercise practice. This is key since the most important part of exercise isn't so much the type, but whether or not we can stick with it for the long haul.
When we use the less-is-more approach to exercise we can feel the results almost instantly. The rush of feel good hormones floods our brains and brings an overwhelming sensation of joy. Over time we can drastically improve cardiovascular health while toning the muscles and training the body to work as a functional unit.
Functional fitness fits into HIIT perfectly; our bodies become our most important piece of equipment. Using our own bodyweight is enough to get us strong and looking good. Plus, functional fitness increases our ability to function in any given environment. It's just as effective as traditional weight training and actually activates more muscles.
The three types of functional exercises or bodyweight training are...
1. Plyometrics -- high energy exercises explosive in nature, ex. burpees, Russian lunges, box jumps, etc.
2. Calisthenics -- pushups, situps, lunges, planks, etc.
3. Gymnastics -- pull-ups, dips, muscle ups etc.
There are ample benefits to these types of low maintenance exercises. We don't have to spend a fortune on gym memberships and personal trainers or a whole bunch of equipment. For those of us who want a bit more intensity and additional weight, a set of kettle bells or a weight vest is all the equipment needed. Utilizing these types of exercises is really all most people need to build muscle, lose weight and strengthen in general. They're accessible to everyone and best of all completely free and adaptable to ones unique fitness level.
Just some benefits of bodyweight training...
• Improved coordination and muscular performance involved in the exercises
• General full body athletic enhancement
• Increases in bone mass
• Lower risk of injury
• Helps us develop proprioceptive awareness and neuromuscular activation.
There are so many variations on HIIT out there. Tabata, metabolic conditioning, Peter Coe regimen, Gibala, Timmons -- they all have different takes on the same principle. Go hard, rest and repeat -- do this for 20 minutes three times a week and you will see results. Not only has HIIT been shown to help melt fat, it also increases resting metabolic rates, helpslower insulin resistance , improves glucose tolerance and helps protect against cardiovascular disease.
Done at our maximum output, giving it our all is what HIIT is all about -- there are no half efforts involved. It's all or nothing folks -- but the good news is HIIT and functional fitness are adaptable and accessible for every age and body type, no matter where you're at. Even grandma can have a go at it.