HIIT – take the boring out of fitness

Back in July 2018 I watched Michael Mosley’s documentary on staying healthy despite living a busy life.   He shared his research on different ways to stay fit and healthy.

One solution he found a lot of evidence for was High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) without equipment at home.  It made a lot of sense to me – so I tried it.  And it works.

It’s not that I wasn’t doing exercise but I was getting bored with my exercise bike HIIT- seriously bored!

With HIIT just 5 minutes exercise 3 times a week will make a real difference to your health.

2021 Update: It doesn’t even have to 5 minutes – the latest science from the World Health Organisation found that just I minute (3 x 20 seconds) of High Intensity exercise can make you healthier.
(Listen to the Life Matters report “Introducing the exercise snack” from 15th December 2021.)

Maximum benefit, minimum time

There are a whole range of ways to do high intensity exercise.  The key principles are:

  • Do very intense exercise (surprise) so that you increase your heart rate and improve your circulation.
  • Only exercise hard for a short period of time, then slow down  (that’s the interval bit).
  • Pick exercises that work for your body (your joints, your back, etc.)

Measure your progress to keep motivated

Some people fall off the exercise wagon because they don’t feel like they’re making progress.  You don’t need to go to a gym to check your progress – you can get a fair idea at home.

Here are two simple ways to test your fitness at home:

  1. Sit down/stand up/sit down/ stand up with your arms crossed on your chest.  Measure how long it takes you to do this 10 times without stopping – and make a note of the date and the time.   Some guidelines are:
    • If you’re female and over 55, the time taken should be under 18 seconds.
    • If you’re male and over 55, the time taken should be under 19 seconds.
  2. Find a set of steps (ordinary steps) and step up and down onto the first step continuously for 3 minutes.  Then measure your pulse rate and see what it is.  Again, to get an idea of where you are:
    • For males over 55, it should be under 115  beats/minute
    • For females over 55, it should be under 120 beats/minute

Once you know where you’re starting from, then find the right HIIT program for you and get started.  Retest in 3 months (or when you’re feeling unmotivated).

HIIT Program Options

Basic 5 in 5

I’ve been getting good results with the basic 5 exercises (shown in the video below):

  • Warm up jogging on the spot
  • 1 minute of star jumps (hard and fast)
  • Brief rest
  • 1 minute of squats (hard and fast)
  • Brief rest
  • 1 minute static sprint (hard and fast)
  • Brief rest
  • 1 minute of squats (you guessed it – hard and fast)
  • Brief rest
  • 1 minute of star jumps (hard and fast)
  • Relax – you’re done…

You can see this online in this video  https://youtu.be/dBiJp6vg638

I really like doing this in the morning – it warms me up and energises me to start the day.

HIIT it up on the exercise bike

Interval sprints also make the exercise bike less boring:

  • 1 minute warm up
  • Flat out for 20 seconds
  • Slow pedalling for 1 minute
  • Flat out for 20 seconds
  • Slow pedalling for 1 minute
  • Flat out for 20 seconds
  • Cool down with some slow pedalling for 1 minute

Low impact HIIT

If your back, knees or ankles are dodgy, do some online research for low-impact HIIT exercises – there are lots of options once you start looking.

One low-impact HIIT I like is this one – it’s varied and uses arms as well as legs for a whole-body workout. https://www.crosstrainingpro.com/five-hiit-workouts-for-people-with-bad-knee-problems/

Being fitter will help your weight which will help your joints – so it’s well worth investing some time in research to find HIIT that works for you.

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