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No Time To Exercise? Try HIT


“I don’t have time to exercise” may be the number one reason why people do not engage in what has been proven to be an essential part of good health. That excuse is not good anymore, according to results of a new study, which says that HIT (high-intensity interval training) provides benefits that are comparable to moderate, long-term exercise.

Only about one-third of American adults say they participate in regular leisure-time physical activity, according to the American Heart Association, and that number may even be high. At the same time, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention note that 36 percent of adults say they never exercise.

Therefore, fully two-thirds of adults in the United States engage in only periodic or no exercise, a figure that corresponds with the number of adults who are overweight or obese in America. In addition, lack of physical activity is a risk factor for heart disease, the number one killer in the United States.

A solution may come in the form of HIT, which experts at McMaster University in Canada say appears to be a time-saving, effective, and safe alternative to traditional exercise programs. Professor Martin Gibala, one of the new study’s authors, notes that “Doing 10 one-minute sprints on a standard stationary bike with about one minute of rest in between, three times a week, works as well in improving muscle as many hours of conventional long-term biking less strenuously.”

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In the HIT study, the authors used a standard stationary bicycle and asked participants to exercise at about 95 percent of maximal heart rate, which is above the comfort zone for most people, but only about 50 percent of what can be achieved when individuals perform an all-out sprint. Participants pedaled for eight to 12 one-minute segments with rest intervals of 75 seconds, for a total of 20 to 25 minutes per session. The researchers note that this less strenuous HIT approach may be better for older, less physically fit people.

The CDC’s exercise guidelines for adults is 2 hours and 30 minutes (150 minutes) of moderate-intensity aerobic activity every week, along with muscle-strengthening activities on two or more days per week, or 1 hour and 15 minutes of vigorous aerobic exercise each week along with two or more days of strengthening activities.

HIT cuts the CDC recommended aerobic exercise time considerably: an average of ten one-minute sprints plus rest time equals only less than 23 minutes per session, three times a week for a total of one hour and 9 minutes. Although jogging and bicycling for hours helps build endurance and improve blood circulation and the delivery of oxygen and nutrients to the muscles, the McMaster research team found that HIT can achieve the same goals and in much less time.

What the study’s authors cannot explain, however, is exactly why HIT works. They believe that HIT stimulates many of the same systems and areas that are involved in longer-term exercise routines.

So the next time you think to yourself, “I have no time to exercise,” remember HIT. (Naturally, everyone is urged to talk to their doctor before beginning any new exercise program.) The McMaster researchers plan to continue their investigations into the merits of HIT for everyone, including people who are overweight or who have diabetes.

American Heart Association
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
McMaster University