Having difficulty fitting in your workouts? There's no doubting that our schedules are busier than ever. Being nearly pushed to the brim and falling into bed exhausted everyday makes it difficult to motivate and make time to fit in time for your own physical health. Getting in enough exercise is a daunting task, and at times it feels that if you're unable to remain consistent, then what's the point? Ha! Enough with the excuses! Today I'm going to share with you the solution.
It's commonly been recommended that people need to get about 30 to 60 minutes of moderate activity in most days of the week in order to develop and maintain cardiovascular health and to support an appropriate body fat percentage. Fitting in 30 to 60 minutes can be challenging. Luckily, it seems that you really don't have to. Recent research has found that the same training benefits come from exercising for short durations at high intensities that come from moderate exercise for 30 to 60 minutes. In 2005, Dr. Martin Gibala discovered that cyclists that sprint cycled for two minutes in 30 second bouts everyday saw the same cardiovascular developments and performance improvements as cyclists who cycled at submaximal intensity for two hours. Yes, read that again. Two versus 20 minutes.
It's essential to take note that the key difference between the two groups was intensity. The cyclists went nearly as hard as they could for 30 second sets. They followed that 30 second bout with a short rest period and then did the next 30 second set at the same high intensity.
What about calories burned? Even those looking to lower their body fat percentage benefit from participating in high intensity, short duration exercise. Although you may think that you would burn a greater number of calories by participating in submaximal, longer duration activities such as jogging or biking, higher intensity activities come out on top. According to Dr. Alan Sears, when you exercise submaximally for 20 minutes or more, your body becomes efficient at providing your working tissues with fuel and start to break down fat to use as energy. While this sounds ideal, in actuality, what you're doing is stimulating your body to make efforts towards storing body fat. Your body does this in an attempt to better prepare itself for your next submaximal, long duration exercise session. On the other hand, during high intensity exercise, your body doesn't have time to break down fat and must use the immediately available glucose, or carbohydrates, for fuel, thus not stimulating your body to hold onto fat.
In addition, high intensity, short duration exercise has been found to more effectively increase your metabolic rate. Your metabolic rate is the number of calories you burn in a day. If it's faster, then it means you're burning more calories throughout the entire day, even when you're at rest. Your EPOC, or Excess Post-Exercise Oxygen Consumption, is elevated for four to 24 hours following high intensity, short duration exercise. Following submaximal, longer duration activities, your EPOC is elevated for only about 30 minutes following the end of your session. An elevated EPOC is a sign that your body is working at an accelerated rate and thus you're burning more calories. Therefore, your metabolic rate is raised significantly higher following high intensity, short duration exercise, meaning you burn more calories. And as you likely know, burning more calories through the day facilitates body fat loss.
To apply this training principle to your own workouts, consider beginning with sprint-walks. Sprint for 30 seconds as hard as you can, followed by walking for 60 minutes. Repeat this set of sprint-walks five to 10 times, depending on the amount of time you have to exercise that day. Just in that little amount of time, you'll be making enormous strides towards your cardiovascular health and helping support a decrease in body fat percentage.