High Intensity Interval Training, or HIIT, which has successfully sprinted from the playing fields of professional athletes to the fitness centers of everyday exercisers, may be coming to a cubicle near you.
Experts say even mini-interludes of this cardiovascular workout, which alternates short, high-intensity intervals with longer, slower ones, can help fend off the sedentary perils of time-pressed, computer-shackled men and women.
Air boxing, in-place marching, wall push-ups and chair jogging are among the office-friendly cardio bouts that exercise physiologist Sean Foy suggests in this new book “The Burst! Workout: the Power of 10-Minute Interval Training.”
“We’re pushing people like athletes, and that’s great for the P90X and CrossFit crowd,” said Foy, who is based in Placentia, California.
“But for people who work in an office 12 hours a day, spending another hour at the gym might be unreasonable.”
The best exercise, he said, is the one you will do.
Foy proposes a 4-3-2-1 formula that entails four minutes of high-energy aerobic training to raise heart rate and metabolism, three minutes of resistance training to strengthen muscles and bones, two minutes of core-strengthening exercises for abs and back and one minute of breathing and stretching.
For the desk-bound, Foy said even a minute of activity can have a profound, positive impact on psychological, emotional and stress responses.
“Take a sedentary person and ask them to air box as quickly and as safely as they can and their heart rate will be elevated,” he said. “The key element is to progress so over time the body will become stronger.”
The book, which is not limited to office-friendly activity, accommodates three levels of fitness: the beginner, the reasonably fit and the exerciser seeking maximum intensity.
A 2013 report by the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) says that HIIT training has been shown to improve aerobic and anaerobic fitness, blood pressure, cardiovascular health, abdominal fat and body weight while maintaining muscle mass.
ACSM recommends at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity five days per week, or 20 minutes of more vigorous activity three days per week.
Dr. Mark Kelly, an exercise physiologist and lecturer at California State University, Fullerton, said HIIT is very effective in achieving conditioning effects with short periods, if both the body and mind build up gradually to high intensity.
“Unfortunately you need to go really hard if you are going really short,” he said.
Kelly added that continuous moderate exercise also has its benefits.
“Many are claiming that just moving or standing is more beneficial for disease avoidance than a quick workout in a day surrounded by laziness,” he said.
Foy thinks the dialogue around fitness has to change.
“Too many people say the only reason they exercise is that they want to lose weight,” he said, adding that the fitness community should spread the word that exercise makes people feel better.