You overslept again and now there's not enough time to workout. Better just skip the gym and sleep another hour. After all, you can always start tomorrow, right?
Contrary to popular belief, exercise does not have to take up hours of your day. Shorter, more intense bouts of fitness can have just as many benefits as longer sweat sessions.
Why Shorter Workouts Make Exercise Happen
Not having enough time is often one of the main reasons people avoid exercise. Yes, time is a resource with which most people struggle, but, are you really that busy? The Center for Disease Control recommends 150 minutes total — or 2 hours and 30 minutes — of moderate-intensity aerobic activity each week; and people who choose vigorous-intensity aerobic activity can knock that number down to 1 hour and 15 minutes or 75 minutes each week. That's the same amount of time it takes to watch a movie.
When you do that exercise in short 10- to 15-minute bouts, it counts towards your exercise quotas just as much as a long 30-minute session. To get the most benefit, up the intensity when you do exercise, such as with interval training.
The Role of Intervals
Interval training uses bouts of high-intensity exercise alternated with short rest periods to maximize calorie burn and cardiorespiratory fitness in slow-steady state cardio. A 2008 study published in The Journal of Physiology found that interval training can elicit physiological adaptations comparable to endurance training, despite a much lower training volume and time commitment.
Additionally, a 2017 study published in PloS One, found that high-intensity interval training is more likely to promote self-efficacy and enjoyment of exercise, especially in people who are inactive.
Using two interval training sessions to break-up a longer 30-60 minute workout is a great way to fit in fitness. When you exercise at a moderate intensity, doing two, 10- or 15-minute sessions each day increases your health, improves mood and boosts calorie burn. Try taking a 15-minute walk before and after work, for example.
And if you prefer high-intensity workouts, performing one short session a day, most days of the week, will suffice. If you're training for an event or looking to pick up the pace, consider adding a second, 10- to 15-minute session a few days a week or adding in one to two days of steady-state cardio exercise, such as running for 30 to 45 minutes.
Designing a Shorter Cardio Workout
For a beginner, an interval training program might consist of walking at a comfortable pace for a few minutes, speeding it up for a minute or two, and then bringing it back to a moderate pace (moderate interval training.) For advanced exercisers, high-intensity interval training (HIIT) can include periods of intense activity such as sprints, rowing, spinning and jump roping, followed by a short recovery period.
HOW TO DO IT: Warm-up: Two minutes at an easy pace. Do one minute of high-intensity activity (performed at 80% to 90% of estimated max heart rate.) Immediately go into two minutes of low- to moderate-intensity activity (performed at 40% to 50% of estimated max heart rate.) Repeat until you reach 15 minutes
Tabata Training for a Tight Schedule
Tabata training has increased in popularity as exercisers search for new ways to make time for fitness. The focus of Tabata is super short, intense (all-out) bouts of activity followed by a quick recovery period. Each exercise block only lasts four minutes, but it's guaranteed to be the most intense four minutes of fitness you've ever experienced.
HOW TO DO IT: After a three to five minute warmup, work out hard for 20 seconds, then rest for 10 seconds. Complete eight rounds of these short intervals.
A sample 10- to 15- minute Tabata routine might have you walk quickly on an incline or sprint for eight rounds of 20 seconds all-out/10 seconds of rest. Then, you could do eight rounds of intense kettlebell swings for 20 seconds/10 seconds rest. Finish it up with eight rounds of 20 seconds of jumping rope alternated with the 10 seconds of rest.
Keep it safe
If you plan on upping the intensity of your exercise, make sure your body can handle it. High-intensity-interval training and Tabata are not slow and steady and do require a higher level of fitness. Pay attention to how your body feels.
If anything hurts, you have a shortness of breath that does not get better with rest, you feel faint or your heart rate is not recovering, stop exercising. When you return to exercise, reduce the intensity and stick to moderate level workouts.