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!


The Pros and Cons of Cardio

By Laura Smith

Love it or hate it, why do we do it? We hate it, moan about it, cut it short or even avoid it. Which begs the question, why?

Firstly, let’s look at the benefits of cardio, and there is no better place to start than the heart. One of the first adaptations to occur is a reduction in resting heart rate, which enables the heart to pump more blood with each single beat, allowing more oxygenated blood to reach your brain and muscles with less effort. What it really means is more oxygen is available and more calories can be burnt.

Leading on to fat burning… Firstly, you get an increase in fat burning enzymes, then there is an increase in blood flow to muscles, allowing them to use stored fat for energy and lastly, you make your body more sensitive to hormones that increase fat burning.

Let’s look at a some more benefits of cardio.

# Pros

For the love of it

Truth is some people really love it, it’s that simple. You know the people, the ones that go for a 10k run to relax. Why for me, it’s not my preferred way to relax, however I get it, I truly do. In this crazy, non-stop world that we live in, people love to use cardio to de-stress and wind down.

Sociable butterfly

How many times have you been in a gym and seen a group on the treadmill incline walking, or sat on a bike talking? Let’s be honest, it’s highly likely they aren’t putting the world to rights, but more likely to be discussing a new diet, training program or the latest cinema release. It is during these times that “gym buddy” friendships strike up. Therefore making you more sociable, improving your mood. However, make sure you still get the work done, don’t stop exercising.

Walk it off

Steady state cardio gets the blood pumping again, driving oxygen around the body as well as nutrients. We have all heard the phrase, “walk it out”, well this literally means that. Walking after intense bouts of weight training has been shown to reduce delayed onset muscle soreness.

But there are some disadvantages too…


Gains Gone

Some people think that all exercise, no matter what the form it takes, will increase lean mass. I am sorry to burst the bubble but this is sadly not the case. Over a long period of time, if cardio is your sole form of exercise, lean muscle mass will be depleted and used for energy. This loss of muscle mass therefore reduces the amount of calories burned by the body which can lead to an increase in body fat percentage, as well as conditions such as diabetes.

Makes you Fat

Ok ok, this is not directly true, but an increase in appetite has been known to happen after cardio, this is due to a trigger caused by cardio that increases hormones that make you hungry. So if you are running all day long to lose weight, but making yourself more and more hungry, the purpose has been defeated, resulting in no results, sadly. So, not only can individuals become hungry after cardio, they can also become disheartened.


Well, we are funny creatures after all, and the truth is, we like to reward ourselves. So, we run 5k, which equals the reward of 1 chocolate bar. Not only does this result in no body fat reduction but more often than not, an increase in body fat.


So what is my advice and take home message on cardio? Yes include it, fasted steady state cardio, or even high intensity intervals, but use it as an additional tool for fat loss and body composition changes alongside weight training. Prioritize diet, weight lifting, and stress management for fat loss. Added cardio will help, but don’t rely solely on cardio to achieve the body you want.


Steady Cardio vs HIIT for Burning Fat

By Adrianna McDonald

It is common to think that to achieve low levels of body fat one must do more cardio. Using treadmills, elliptical machines, steppers or bikes, you put in hours of training. This is what most competitors do and what most of the coaches preach to their clients. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve been there and did just that by myself even though science tells us otherwise.

IMG_1473There has been number of research studies in the past years proving that steady cardio is not only ineffective for burning fat but also it’s been found to deteriorate muscle tissue and decrease testosterone levels.

A recent study in The American Journal of Physiology found that steady-state cardio decreases the ability of muscles to absorb glucose after training. Doing hours of steady cardio also limits hypertrophy by shutting down one of the primary regulators of muscle growth, making you burn the same amount of muscle as you do fat.

On a good note you can also make your cardio anabolic if you do it the right way. High Intensity Interval Training, known as HIIT, has been proven by research to:

  • increase your metabolic rate for up to 24 hours
  • improve insulin sensitivity in the muscles, which helps your body better absorb and use the food you eat (rather than store it as fat)
  • increase your muscles’ ability to burn fat for energy
  • elevate growth hormone levels, which aid in fat loss
  • spike catecholamine levels, which are the chemicals that mobilize fat for burning
  • and decrease post-exercise appetite, which helps prevent overeating.


So what is high intensity interval training? HIIT simply is alternating between exercise periods of almost all-out intensity (60 and 80% of your VO2 max) followed by low-intensity (recovery). During your high-intensity bouts, you’re pushing yourself almost as hard as you can, and during your low-intensity periods, you’re trying to catch your breath in preparation for the next sprint.

A study conducted by researchers at the University of Western Ontario found that people lost more fat doing 4 to 6 30-second sprints (with 4-minute rest periods) than 60 minutes of incline treadmill walking.Simply the less cardio you do, the more muscle you’ll preserve while in a calorie deficit.

When it comes to the fat burning process, timing is everything and there are several tweaks you can throw in to enhance the process and get the fat off much faster.

The first of these tweaks applies to how you space out your workouts. Make sure to schedule your training so you complete your HIIT sessions up to an hour before you train with weights.

IMG_1495 2

While you can use HIIT principles with any type of cardio, if your goal is to preserve muscle and strength, your best choices are biking, rowing, and sprinting. It’s worth noting though that you want to adjust your speed in your training more than the resistance settings offered by various machines. The goal of HIIT is to go fast and hard.

Research shows that the type of cardio you do has a significant effect on your ability to gain strength and size through weightlifting. Start out with a 1:2 ratio between high- and low-intensity intervals. 1 minute fast, 2 minutes slow.

As you get fitter, you can work toward a 1:1 ratio. Warm up for 3-5 minutes then do 20 intervals followed by 3-5 minutes of cool-down.

Depending on which stage of prep you are on and how fast you loosing BF (body fat) you can do from 2-4 sessions a week along with 4-6 weight lifting sessions.

Another way is to do HIIT with maximum power output for 30 seconds, followed by four minutes of rest, for 4-6 rotations. Three times each week.

Both work well. Give it a try next time when you want to lean out!