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High-Intensity Interval Training May be Perceived as Easier Exercise

In today’s over-scheduled and fast-paced society, it can seem near impossible to squeeze everything into a 24-hour day. The holiday season is no exception, adding party-going, gift-shopping, and house-decorating to the list of to-dos. Exercise can often fall by the wayside when the tasks start piling up, but fitness does not have to be grueling or take several hours from your day. Research published in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise suggests high-intensity interval training (HIIT) may not only save you time, it may feel easier too.

For the 2015 study, 20 overweight, unfit adults completed four separate exercise sessions on an indoor cycle. The first was a 20-minute, continuous session performed at 50% of maximum work capacity. The other three sessions were 24 minutes total but broken into intervals of 30, 60 or 120 seconds. Exercisers worked at 80% maximum capacity for one interval, followed by a rest interval of the same length. All sessions were equal in terms of calories burned (an estimated 165 calories per session). Before, during and after each session, participants rated their perceived level of effort on a scale of 1 to 10.

Participants not only expected the 30-second interval workout to feel easiest before starting the exercise, shorter intervals felt easier while they were actually exercising. By the end of the sessions, participants rated the 30-second intervals as 4.5 for exertion, while they rated the continuous yet less-intensive exercise as 5.9. The 120-second intervals felt even harder, rated as a 6.8 for difficulty.

If exercising just isn’t your thing, high-intensity interval training may be for you. Perception of effort can limit exercise tolerance, so engaging in exercise that feels easier can be motivation to stick with your daily routine. Thirty seconds at high intensity, follow by thirty seconds of rest for 24 minutes was the ideal in this study for the easiest feeling workout. Try this interval routine for running, cycling, jump roping or any other activity that gets you up and moving. 

Published December 1, 2015

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