“Health isn’t everything but without it, everything else is nothing.”
– Arthur Schopenhauer, German philosopher (1788-1860)
For decades, more and more Americans (myself included) have become fans of nutrition and wellness. We watch what we eat and exercise regularly. Until Life Happens and disrupts our normal cycles, that is.
Life Happens a lot to many of us. There are only so many waking hours in a day, after all, and those hours are made up of 60 minutes of 60 seconds. In the 1980s, aerobics became trendy in large part because elevating the heart rate for sustained periods to force oxygen into the extremities proved to be a fast and efficient way to get in shape.
Americans began to run, walk, swim, and bike. Then, along came yoga, tai chi, and a wide assortment of mind-body-tuning martial arts. More recently, spin classes (pedaling a stationary bicycle) sprang up in gyms alongside rows of treadmills and elevator-like stairs that go nowhere. The benefits of regular aerobic exercise are undeniable.
Last year, I wrote about “HIITing It Hard!” as High-Intensity Interval Training continued its popularity as a quick (if not always easy) means to the end: getting fit fast.
A HIIT workout combines a series of extreme activities with a rest period. To get aerobic and weight-loss results, the exercise, no matter what it is, must be strenuous enough to raise your heart rate (beats per minute or bpm) and metabolism:
“Combining high-intensity exercise with rest and recovery periods requires a lot of fuel and the body eats up calories and tends to lose fat.”
People doing a HIIT routine note their own Rate of Perceived Exertion (RPE). This purely subjective scale self-rates effort levels on a scale of 1 to 10 1 being the least demanding and 10 being the most intense. To be safe, experts recommend not letting your RPE go above level 9. In other words, don’t max out.
Beginners to HIIT are advised to start with a 1:2 ratio of exercise to rest – for every minute of exertion, recover for two minutes before beginning the next set. Transition gradually to a 1:1 ratio with equal times of activity and recovery.
HIIT workouts of 20 minutes three times a week get fabulous results – but what if Life Happens and you don’t have even that much time for fitness?
Trending in 2020 is the new and improved Micro-HIIT workout! Motivated health seekers are now doing much shorter exercises while waiting in the kitchen or break room for food to heat or when on a lengthy telephone hold. Even 1-5 minutes of intense exercise with rest intervals is far better than nothing.
Furthermore, most of us have many more brief waiting periods built into our daily lives than 20-minute blocks dedicated to self-improvement through mindful training.
The healthy stress from HIIT triggers autophagy (“self-eating”) in the body, nature’s way of getting rid of cellular debris. At the same time, the production of stem cells, the primary regenerative cells in the body, is stimulated. The more stem cells you have, the better you can induce super-autophagy.
Autophagy recycles and cleanses the body’s cells at the same time. It also promotes survival and adaptation in response to various stressors and toxins that build up in our cells.
Sarah Brooks shared a 5-minute cardio HIIT workout that features 40 seconds of exercise followed by 20 seconds of rest to complete one round of the following exercises:
- Pulsing Jump Squat
- Frog Jump
- Vertical Jump
- High Knee
- Jumping Jack Plank
For a longer workout, repeat some or all of the round.
Or try a lightning 3:33 round of beginner MicroHit by exerting yourself for 20 seconds followed by 10 seconds of rest to complete one round of the following exercises:
- Jab, cross, front (right)
- Jab, cross, front (left)
- Jumping jacks
- Sumo squats
Heather Milton, a clinical specialist exercise physiologist at NYU Langone Sports Performance Center, cautions against doing 20-30 minute HIIT workouts more than three times a week:
“The higher intensity requires more time for your muscles to recover between bouts. Three times per week with 48 hours of rest in between is that ideal spacing when you can get the benefits without increasing the injury risk.”
Micro-HIIT sessions may reduce the risk of overdoing it – but always train, don’t strain. Be sure to include stretching before and after strenuous activities to avoid physical trauma.
High-intensity interval training is very effective and may burn more calories than other forms of regular exercise. The beneficial effects from raising your metabolism last for hours after working out and are equivalent to other forms of exercise but in a shorter amount of time.
With Micro-HIIT sessions, we are running out of excuses not to get fit and stay that way. So give me 5 burpees while you’re waiting for that burrito to heat up, whaddayasay?
“It is exercise alone that supports the spirits, and keeps the mind in vigor.”
– Marcus Tullius Cicero, Roman statesman, orator, lawyer and philosopher (106-43 BC)