An entrepreneur’s life can get pretty busy—so busy that it seems like there simply isn’t enough time to get in a good workout. Whether trying to lose weight, shave minutes off a race time or bulk up at the gym, many people think they need to exercise for an hour or more to gain any real benefit. But sometimes short workouts are more effective than longer ones.
The secret to achieving a maximum fitness benefit in a 30 minutes (or less) is high-intensity interval training (HIIT). HIIT is a type of exercise that involves short bouts of exercise followed by brief recovery periods. This sequence is repeated several times in a row, usually for a duration of 20 to 30 minutes, and studies have shown that this type of interval training results in increased fat loss and muscle production.
For business leaders short on time, HIIT and other short “burst” exercises are a great way to get results quickly—which means you no longer have to feel guilty about not having an extra three hours for the gym. Instead, you can focus on building your company without sacrificing your health.
Need more proof? Here are three things short workouts are just as good, if not better, at than longer ones:
1. Improving cardiovascular health
The maximum volume of oxygen a person can use at a given time (known as VO2 max) is an indicator of overall fitness level, as well as lung and heart health. (Think about how quickly you get out of breath during exercise—that’s the moment when your body is having more difficulty getting oxygen to your muscles to sustain exercise.) Many studies have shown that compared to steady-state exercises, interval training promotes greater improvements in VO2 max and overall fitness.
According to a study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, the heart muscle will enlarge —or hypertrophy—during HIIT-type exercises in order to allow the heart muscle to become bigger and stronger. During every period of intense exercise, you are increasing your cardiovascular ability. Then, during the short resting periods, the body learns to recover more quickly. Going forward, the heart needs less time to rest, which builds its stamina and improves its ability to use oxygen and maintain an elevated heart rate for an extended period of time.
2. Burning fat
HIIT workouts trigger something known as excess post-exercise oxygen consumption, or EPOC. During a difficult “burst” period of exercise, the body experiences an oxygen deficit. Because of this, a higher level of oxygen is needed to facilitate the restoration of hormone levels and glucose stores once the workout is over and your body goes into recovery mode.
Following intense exercise, your body is also working hard to repair muscle fibers and tissue. After a HIIT workout your body needs more “fuel” or energy in addition to more oxygen. Fat stores within the body are broken down, and free fatty acids are released into the bloodstream, which become oxidized and are used by the body for energy.
As your go about your day, your body uses more oxygen to bring itself back to its resting state, burning more calories and fat in the process well after the workout is over.
3. Building lean muscle mass
In addition to burning fat and boosting cardiovascular health, intense interval training also produces muscle-building hormones, including the growth hormone IGF-1. IGF-1, which controls bone and tissue growth. This important growth hormone has growth-promoting effects on almost every cell in the body, particularly the skeletal muscle, thus allowing the body to build lean muscle mass more effectively.
Additionally, a 2009 study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research found that high-intensity training also increases testosterone levels. Elevated levels of testosterone promote weight loss, muscle mass and high energy levels, but as men and women age, their testosterone levels naturally decline, leading to obesity and a weakened metabolism. In those instances, making high-intensity exercise a habit will lead to increased hormone balance and the continued building of lean muscle mass.