Can you Get Fit by Working out for 1 Hour a Week?

By Alan Bichara

Surprisingly, people don’t enjoy going to the gym as much as we would like to think. In my career I have met a good amount of people who drag themselves to the gym just because they “had” to do it to stay fit or look good.

People are just too busy, too tired and too preoccupied with other stuff to even go to the gym. So many reasons pop up in their head when it comes to staying fit: driving to the gym, traffic, wanting to sleep-in before work, wanting to just collapse on the couch after work. All these are reasons for you not to achieve your fitness goals.

But what if there is a way to spend an hour a week to stay fit or keep your weight down?

What is HIIT and how do you do it?

HIIT or High Intensity Interval Training is an advanced form of Interval training. You will use an alternating period of short, intense anaerobic excercises and longer low intensity recovery periods. The good thing about it is you can either do cardio or resistance training with this method.

HIIT sessions primarily start out with a 5-10 min warm-up to loosen up your body, either with dynamic stretching or just steady cardio to increase your heart rate slightly over the normal range. This will prepare your body for the higher intensity workout that it will go through in the next few minutes and prevent a shock to your system. Second will be the HIIT session that usually lasts 20-25 mins. End with a 5 min cool down that will let your heart rate go down gradually without causing blood pooling to avoid the feeling of light headedness and nausea post-workout.

HIIT starts with 20 secs active mode and 40 secs rest mode or 30 secs active mode and 45secs rest mode. The 2nd option is more advanced since you have a longer active period and just a slightly longer rest period.

Let me show you an example of HIIT sessions using resistance training and cardio training.


Resistance training circuit with HIIT

1 set

Active mode: bodyweight squats 20 secs

Rest mode: march in place 40 secs

A: push up/press ups 20 secs

R: march in place 40 secs

A: jumping jacks/star jumps 20 secs

R: march in place 40 secs

A: mountain climbers 20 secs

R: march in place 40 secs

NOTES: This HIIT workout is for beginners. To progress you would want to start to jog in place during the recovery period. This small change can make a big difference with this workout.

1 round of active and rest period will last one minute, making the whole circuit last for 4 mins which means you just have to repeat it 5 times to reach the 20 minute mark.

HIIT Cardio workout

1 set repeat for 20 rounds

A: Cycle (on a stationary bike) for 20 secs at intensity level 8 keeping the RPM at 130

R: Cycle for 40 secs at intensity level 6 and RPM 80

NOTES: Seems like a very basic workout but this 20 mins is much better and will be much harder than your 1-hour steady cardio workout.

To progress with HIIT we can either do more reps in the active phase (bodyweight), lift heavier weights (resistance) or go faster (cardio). You can also try to do more in your recovery mode. For example, instead of a full rest for 40secs, maybe march in place, and eventually jog in place if you have a very strong cardiorespiratory system.

And the benefits are? 

The benefits of HIIT range from practical non-workout related to the physiological benefits. It will help you save time by doing 20-25 mins a day three times a week. It is more interesting than your traditional 1-hr bike/walk in the gym. It will make you burn more calories during the workout and especially in the hours after the workout.

The science behind HIIT boasts of its “after-burn” effect or EPOC (exercise post oxygen consumption) which is your body’s natural ability to return to homeostasis after exercise. This will last for 2-hrs post workout, which in the end will make you burn more calories in 20mins HIIT + EPOC compared to your 1-hr steady cardio on the bike/treadmill, and some say can also raise your metabolism for the next 24-48hrs.

So next time you feel lazy, know that it only takes 20mins to stay fit and feel great!

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