An hour of running or rowing does awesome things to our bodies and minds. But what if we don’t have an hour? What if we could achieve those same benefits (and maybe more) in a fraction of the time? We can—if we make our workout quick and intense. In a recent Student Health 101 survey, one out of three students who responded said they get a high-intensity workout at least once a week. Any workout can be intensified by adapting the pace or moves, but if you could use more guidance, check out these programs:
- High-Intensity Interval Training or HIIT: workouts that alternate all-out effort with less intense recovery periods.
- Tabata™: A branded approach that alternates 20 intense seconds and 10 restful seconds.
1. Saves you time
High-intensity exercise improves cardio fitness levels at a faster rate than moderate activity, according to a 2012 study of low-volume HIIT training in the Journal of Physiology. Ninety minutes a week of high-intensity activity had benefits comparable to those of 4.5 hours of moderate training.
2. 2-for-1 deal
In a classic study by researchers including Dr. Izumi Tabata, founder of the Tabata workout, high-intensity workouts improved both aerobic and anaerobic capacity, while moderate endurance training only had aerobic benefits, according to Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise. This allows you to develop two types of muscle fibers: one type that helps with a 30-second sprint and another that helps you bench press a heavy weight.
3. Totally adaptable
High-intensity workouts can happen anywhere. They don’t need special equipment and can be adapted to suit your fitness level, physical limitations, and workout goals. If running is not for you, a set of burpees could be just as effective.
4. You can stick with it
As your fitness improves, you can modify the workout to keep challenging yourself. That can mean longer periods of intensity, shorter rest periods, or more difficult moves. “It’s a great way for people to stick with a workout, because it’s not as boring,” says Frankie Romeo, certified trainer and graduate student in exercise and nutrition science at Lipscomb University, Tennessee. This might be why thousands of fitness professionals rated high-intensity training #1 in fitness trends for 2014, and #2 (after body weight training) for 2015, in a survey by the American College of Sports Medicine.
5. Happy heart
The heart benefits of physical activity hold up in high-intensity workouts. Lower blood pressure and reduced arterial stiffness—which affect how hard your heart has to work to send blood through your body—were reported in a 2013 study in the Journal of Physiology.
After your workout, rehydrate and refuel
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