It’s everyone’s dream… little work and lots of benefit, but before you sign on you need to understand what this is all about. According to some new research, a few short bursts of very high intensity interval training (working out to just a few minutes per week) can bring you many of the benefits that come from hours of more conventional workouts. It sounds too good to be true…
However, the claim is backed by a number of years of research that comes from different countries. The form of exercise, known as High Intensity Training (HIT) involves doing three minutes of intense exercise per week for a month and appears to bring some pretty impressive changes in important health indicators.
Insulin sensitivity can be improved (according to research) by 24% by just 3 minutes of HIT for a month. Aerobic fitness, an indication of how well your heart/lungs are doing at giving your body oxygen also improves and serves as an excellent signal of future health.
But there is a small catch… how much you benefit from these kinds of workouts may depend largely on your genes.
A research team looked into the reasons for why exercise worked for some and not for others, and found that the results could be linked to a few genes. Today there is a genetic test designed to see who may respond to HIT and who will probably not get the full benefit.
The idea that some people may be genetically wired not to respond to aerobic exercise is intriguing. An international study on 1,000 exercisers found that while 15% made incredible strides, 20% of the subjects showed no real improvements from exactly the same exercise regimen.
Once you start, HIT is super easy. One example is to do some gentle cycling as a warm up for a few minutes and then hit high gear for 20 seconds. Take a few minutes of gentle cycling to get your breath and then do another 20 seconds. Repeat this pattern a third time and your HIT workout is complete for the day.
If you have any form of pre-existing condition, talk with your doctor before giving HIT a try. If this isn’t the approach for you, there are lots of other fun, engaging activities you might do instead.
Why does it work?
According to the experts, part of the reason is that this form of exercise uses more muscle tissue compared to classic aerobic exercise.
HIT calls for intensely working the leg muscles as well as the arms and shoulders – that’s 80% of the muscle cells in the body. This compares to 20-40% used when walking or doing moderately intense jogging or cycling.
This type of exercise also appears to break down stores of glucose found stored in muscles as glycogen. When you break up glycogen stores you make more room for glucose to be removed from the blood.
Keep in mind too that many of us feel uncomfortable when it comes to exercising because we’re self-conscious about our fitness level or how out of shape we look. Don’t let this stop you from trying high intensity interval training and getting in shape. Working out with friends who don’t care what you look like or how you do can be tremendously beneficial, because you get companionship, support and someone to help keep you going.