What is the least amount of exercise you can do?
The fact that I’ve been able to pinch a bit of your time and land your eyes on this page, shows to me that you have a certain level of interest in keeping yourself fit. Given your interest, I’m also guessing that you’re familiar with high intensity interval training, or as you probably better know it by – HIIT.
It’s fair to say that the practice of HIIT has gained serious momentum over recent years, with it now being a notable trend in the world of health and fitness. It’s a movement that has occurred for a number of key reasons.
1. Growing body of research that proves the effectiveness of HIIT.
Every week there seems to be a new article or television programme that reveals research showing the benefits of HIIT. The most recent - and arguably most attention grabbing - example comes from a team of scientists from McMaster University in Canada, who found that one minute of very intense exercise produces similar results to longer, more traditional endurance training. The report can be found here.
In addition, the Worldwide Survey of Fitness Trends for 2016 places HIIT at number three in their list of top 20 fitness trends – which is actually a drop from the top spot that it held in 2015.
2. As individuals our time is being ever squeezed. ‘Too busy to work out’ is sadly a state of mind that too many people, for my liking anyway, now hold. Exercise is unfortunately the area that seems to bear the brunt of our apparent shortage of time. It’s a sad state of affairs, and something I will return to at the end of this post.
3. Influential social media users have jumped on the trend further fuelling the awareness of HIIT and therefore its subsequent growth. Joe Wicks AKA ‘The Body Coach’ is probably the best example of this, being one of the pioneers of HIIT in the social media age. His cheeky chappie personality, great social media content, and the results his HIIT workouts achieve - shown through the before and after photos of his members – are undeniably impressive, and largely the reason why so many people feel compelled to sign up. If you haven't come across The Body Coach before, then he's worth looking into, here.
Be sure to check his social channels out too. His short #LeanIn15 videos are a great source of inspiration for mealtimes. And something else to point out, is that people see the results they do from The Body Coach not solely because of the HIIT workouts but also because of the strict nutritional plan that they are required to follow.
There’s no doubt about it, HIIT is great and I’m a heavy user and big advocate of it. However, it isn’t all I do. And this is one of the things I guess I want to get across in this post. That being, HIIT should have a place in your training, but importantly a place alongside other forms of exercise, such as endurance and weight training. This balance in your training is where you will see the greatest improvements to your performance; performance related to set goals, as goals are also what I believe to be crucial ingredients of your health and fitness plans.
Where I worry when it comes to HIIT
The biggest point I want to make about HIIT though, is the worry I have that people are maybe viewing HIIT as a fitness ‘short cut’ of sorts. As you can probably guess, I’m not a huge fan of subscribing to the idea of ‘what’s the least amount of exercise I can do?’. To me that’s a dangerous mind-set to get into, and one that will only ever involve one of those proverbial slippery slopes. However I am mindful of the time constraints each and everyone of us faces, which again is why I think HIIT does indeed have a place in a well structured, realistic training plan.
Importantly, while the result of undertaking exercise is to improve your health and fitness levels, there is one other important side effect of exercise - mental wellbeing. Specifically, the 'in the moment' enjoyment and freedom that exercise brings you. The long weekend rides, early morning park runs, or lunchtime spin classes. These are the types of activities that help to clear our mind, motivate us to achieve more, and importantly often place us in situations where we can socialise with others. You’d do well to experience the previously mentioned benefits during your one minute HIIT sessions…
Furthermore, if you are looking to cheat a bit with your exercise, you may be in for a bit of a rude awakening when it comes to HIIT – Well, that’s if you want to see results.
Well, at the end of the day, what you need to remember is that there is a trade off between intensity and duration. So if you want to see real results from HIIT, then you are going to have to work dam hard to do so. After all, HIIT is based upon a basic principal that maximal effort causes a disturbance in the body, and that disturbance is what creates adaptation and improvement.
So, to refer back to and answer the titled question: What is the least amount of exercise I can do? For me the answer is to change the question, to that of: what is the most amount of exercise I can do? That is the mindset you need to start with when it comes to approaching HIIT. Without that, the hard work that HIIT requires on your part - to see results -, will be something that you are constantly looking for excuses to do.
To finish with, and apologies, I'm going to get a bit philosophical on you now...
Time is the one thing we all have the same amount of - 24 hours everyday. Time is our most important currency, so you need to spend it wisely. And I think there is nothing more deserving of your currency than your health and fitness, so I think you should spend as much of it there as you can afford.
Try to avoid cutting corners, or seeing exercise as a necessary evil. Instead, enjoy the journey that exercise takes you on... Pretty much anything worth having in life, requires hard work.
Cheers for listening...