Life can be busy any time of year, especially around the holidays.
The holidays often demand that we each deliberately make time for wellness and exercise. Like any of our daily preventive habits for overall health like brushing our teeth, physical wellness works best when practiced regularly.
Maintaining strength and stability is essential for our health and best accomplished by including both endurance and circulation training for our bracing muscles, and dynamic workouts for our action muscles.
Even if you only have 5 minutes to spare, science shows you can still reap multiple benefits from a quick workout.
The New York Times recently published an article titled “Really, Really Short Workouts” by Tara Parker-Pope.
Pope outlines several short, high-intensity interval training [HIIT] workouts. Anyone with any experience, or none, and any amount of time can try different HIIT workouts, making adjustments as needed. These scientifically-proven workouts incorporate a warm-up, with peaks of high-intensity exercise separated by lower-intensity, and a cool-down
Pope enthusiastically insists:
“You can try it with any aerobic activity you like. The principles of H.I.I.T. can be applied to running, biking, stair climbing, swimming, jumping rope, rowing, even hopping or skipping. [Yes, skipping!]”
HIIT is a step-up from traditional advice that one should be able to maintain a conversation while running or working out: instead, one shouldn’t be able to complete long-winded sentences. The focus is on increasing intensity to a point where chatting is difficult because the workout is challenging your body closer to its limits.
Pope recommends incorporating a HIIT workout three times a week.
Even the 4-minute workouts show an improvement in health benefits after 6 weeks. Benefits include increased endurance and lower glucose levels (even in diabetics, even in a single session). One study showed that even for those struggling with coronary artery disease, high-intensity interval training was not only safe—but better tolerated than a more moderate workout.
Additionally, HIIT burns more calories both before and after than continuous aerobic training. The intensity increases calorie consumption and your body continues burning calories for 2 hours after the workout.
The benefits of high-intensity interval training extend past mere increased calorie burn: people report more enjoyment from HIIT than moderate-intensity activity. This benefit has a two-fold effect: people stick to workouts that they enjoy. A short, consistent workout is better than sporadic exercise or no exercise at all.
HIIT also improves cardiovascular health by working out your blood vessels. Exercise physiologist and athletic trainer Scott Weiss, C.S.C.S. explains, “HIIT increases the flexibility and elasticity of arteries and veins better than continuous aerobic exercise. Because of the increased pressure demand of HIIT, the vessels actually get a workout as well.”
Arguably, the greatest gain of high-intensity interval training is in the shortened yet still highly effective workouts. Hectic schedules can incorporate HIIT into a lunch break or an early morning quiet time.
Your body craves both variety and stability – without stability, back pain can spoil a holiday; without variety, action muscles aren’t challenged.
All it takes is 5 minutes. Aim for variety, and most important, have fun.