Post No.: 0625
No time to exercise? Surely you can spare just a few minutes?..
High-intensity training (HIT) or high-intensity interval training (HIIT) could be for you? ‘High intensity’ means going at ~80-90% of your maximum intensity. ‘Interval training’ involves alternating periods of high-intensity exercise and low-intensity exercise or rest (e.g. 20 seconds of high-intensity exercise followed by 15 seconds of rest).
Just 3 minutes per week(!) broken down into 3 sessions of 3 x 20 seconds – but going at absolutely full pelt – could make a huge difference to your insulin sensitivity (by breaking down glycogen stores in your muscles) and to your VO2 Max (which is your maximum rate of oxygen consumption measured whilst performing exercise of increasing intensity).
Going hard is better for improving your VO2 Max than going moderately (which is going at ~60% of your maximum intensity). However, it’s not for everyone and it’s not going to be sustainable for someone who does not enjoy the intensity. Yet it is another way to keep active – and keeping regularly active in any way is better than not. Of course you can mix it up and do some HIIT and some moderate exercise on different days.
Intense exercise mightn’t be suitable for those with certain rare genetic or developed conditions, or for elderly, frail or injured persons. But some level of exercise is good for everybody.
You must be careful and do a thorough warm-up before a HIIT session though, and this will take several minutes to gradually do. This is because going from cold to maximal or near-maximal intensity increases the risk of injuries.
You may also need to consult your doctor before starting a routine if you’ve been inactive for a while. Build up your intensity session-by-session whatever the case. Now HIIT doesn’t lead to a greater risk of cardiac arrests or strokes – in fact it’ll gradually reduce the risk of cardiac problems if one builds up one’s HIIT ability gradually and under the advice of one’s doctor.
HIIT is the solution if one wants the most out of one’s time. It doesn’t necessarily require any fancy equipment either because it can consist of exercises like burpees, jumping on the spot or chasing your own tail. So a lack of equipment is no problem.
Low-intensity steady-state (LISS) exercise is performed at a low-to-moderate intensity, which usually means going at ~40-70% of your maximum intensity, for a continuous and longer period. Both HIIT and LISS exercise will burn fat – HIIT has been shown to be slightly more effective, but LISS still has its place as there’s less risk of injury and you can go on for far longer.
The formula Work = Force * Distance suggests that the key is to ultimately cover the same distance (or number of reps or whatever) no matter how long it takes (within reason!) HIIT involves a high Power, or high rate of Work for the Time taken, hence you’ll cover a Distance faster (if you can keep the rate up for the entire distance). But as long as you complete the distance then you’ll, on paper, have done the equivalent amount of work.
However, completing a distance within a shorter time is much more difficult than completing an equivalent distance over a longer time, and this challenge for your body will improve your fitness levels better. A marathon distance is far tougher if completed in <3 hours than in >10 hours – and if you can do the former then you’ll naturally be fitter than if you can only do the latter time. So save yourself time and get a better workout – the key is keeping up the intensity for a sufficient duration.
HIIT can elevate one’s metabolism and keep it raised long afterwards compared to moderate exercise. We burn energy not just during exercise but for several hours afterwards if we’ve exercised intensively enough, because if our body needs to do a lot to repair itself, this process requires energy thus our metabolic rate will be increased during this time. So the calories burnt from intensive exercise occur not just during the time we’re exercising but also during several hours or even days afterwards. Bonus! You might realise yourself that you still feel a ‘glow’ after maybe 30-45 minutes after finishing a HIIT session. You likely won’t be able to sleep easily until a few hours after you’ve stopped exercising because your body is still warmer than usual. And then a day or so later you might feel muscle stiffness because of delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS).
You may not feel as hungry after a HIIT session too because it’s so quick, which means you’ll eat less. It’s not just about what we do when we exercise but also about what we do during all the other times that’ll affect our weight and health, such as during mealtimes.
If you want to improve your chances of living longer then put your body through temporary moments of stress – such as short periods of fasting (hunger) or short but intense periods of exercise (shortness of breath). This can trick your body into thinking that it needs to fight and thus promotes the body’s natural defences, which in turn could extend your lifespan. It’s important for the stress to not be chronic though, as this’ll wear the body down and have the opposite effect. Rest is vital for repair.
Vigorous exercise is good for your heart because it strengthens it, and this can lower your blood pressure. However, exercises like yoga and tai chi aren’t usually as vigorous yet they can lower your blood pressure too – the mechanism in this case is thought to be because it relaxes the blood vessels rather than strengthens the heart. Thus both kinds of exercise can ultimately lower one’s blood pressure, which in turn can lower the feeling of tension and stress. Exercises with flowing movements like tai chi or dance can also help reduce the symptoms of people with dementia.
Fartlek intermixes endurance training with speed training. Within an exercise session – it’s about going through alternating periods of low-intensity and high-intensity exercise, such as jogging then sprinting, walking then sprinting again. One listens to one’s own body and mood as to when and for how long one increases the intensity or decreases it again – this is the main difference with regular interval training, which is more structured.
Note that cardio exercise is any exercise that raises your heart rate to a sustained degree. Aerobic exercise is any exercise that constantly uses oxygen (e.g. running, where you’re constantly breathing, and you can go for a long time). And anaerobic exercise is any exercise that doesn’t use oxygen (e.g. powerlifting a heavy weight or plyometrics, where you might hold your breath for that brief moment, but it can only be sustained for a short burst because lactic acid starts to build). What is a cardio or an aerobic exercise will practically be the same thing because when your heart rate rises, so will your breathing. Cardio and aerobic exercise will burn most of its calories while you’re performing them, and is most useful if you want to build endurance. Meanwhile, anaerobic exercise will burn most of its calories afterwards when you’re trying to recover, and is most useful if you want to build power.
…I have pretty much always exercised strictly to a clock because the intensity – the pace or rate of action – matters. Some people say they’ve ‘spent 3 hours in the gym’ when they probably mean 30 minutes of actual workout time and with long rests, perhaps some chit-chat, and posing in front of the mirrors between sets! The changing of clothes and showering are also included in that time, as is sometimes the driving to and from the gym (which isn’t workout time, just like a commute doesn’t count as work even though it’s needed for work).
It does depend on one’s fitness goals but I don’t personally think that taking long rest times between sets translates to real-world fitness. There’s a big difference between doing 200 press-ups in 5 minutes compared to in 20 minutes. There’s a big enough difference doing a set of something every 120 seconds compared to every 125 seconds. For me, it’s about getting your heart rate sufficiently up more than walking 10,000 steps per day (an arbitrary figure conjured up by a marketing department of a company that sold pedometers), which you might not even stick to anyway. So you can do more beneficial exercise in less time (although not with less total effort) if you go harder!
I also like to feel a sense of progress, so if something starts to feel easy, I’ll up the target, and so on. The numbers matter and I always have my targets and plans. But it’s more about pushing as far as one personally can without getting injured. It’s a competition – but only with one’s previous self. (If you’re training for an external competition, check out Post No.: 0109.) Days when you’re not quite up for it happen so I’ll do less on those days. Regardless, I like that satisfaction of knowing that I couldn’t have given more.
No physical activity is bad unless done wrong to risk injury – it’s about how intensely you perform something, in conjunction with the duration, to get the benefit for your heart, lungs, muscles and joints. It shouldn’t really be about losing weight per se but improving one’s fitness and performances, which could be measured via tests like one’s VO2 Max or metabolic equivalent of task (MET) (which is a measure of one’s calorie expenditure rate, relative to one’s mass, whilst performing some specific physical activity).
…For decades, people have been saying that they don’t have any time to exercise. Yet with the advent of social media or bingeing on box sets – people somehow found a ‘magic time tree’ to spend time on these activities(!) Before taking selfies became mainstream, people said they didn’t have any time for physical activities – yet they somehow found ample extra time for staring at a screen and (re)taking snap after snap of themselves(!) Some people have sunk literally several days or weeks of their life in total playing certain repetitive mobile games like ‘match three’ games, as if they’re addicted to them. It’s okay to spend some time on these activities but not all of one’s free time.
So utilise HIIT. Even just 15 or 7 minutes can be a decent time to do some exercise. If you don’t have time then increase the intensity. People (pandemic social-gathering rules permitting) can also non-virtually get together to socially do something active too.
I’ve personally found that, during periods when I’m not exercising because of illness, injury or some other reason, I don’t seem to have any more time on my paws, or – put another way – I don’t seem to have any less time for doing regular exercise.
Maybe it simply becomes a habit or routine like brushing our fangs, or exercise gives us the feeling of more energy and vitality to do things thus we’re more efficient when we do other things during our day hence we get them done quicker and this liberates our time? Hard exercise can particularly leave us feeling drained whilst we’re recovering from those sessions – but once we have recovered, we feel far less lethargic or slow the rest of the time. Exercise can be a great way to forget about work or anything else for a moment too.
Woof. Because regular physical activity is so important for one’s health, we’ve got to make time for it even if we think we don’t have time for it. Employers who care about their employees understand this too. It’s like sleeping, washing or eating well – we have to do these things for a good quality of life hence we must put time aside for doing them. And quality physical activity is no different.