In our busy lives, fitting exercise in can often be difficult. We are an immediate results society. Our internet has to be faster, social media allows people to connect instantaneously, cell phone accessibility is imperative, and time is constantly limited. While studies show exercise must be a priority in everyone’s lifestyle routine, which type of exercise is the most efficient? What makes the best use of your time? Forget walking and moderate exercise! A new study, led by the Flinders health sciences lecturer Dr. Lynda Norton with the researchers from the University of South Australia, found that a one hour high-intensity workout provides the same fitness benefits as 50 hours of walking.
High Intensity Workouts
High intensity exercise is defined as any exercise that pushes your heart rate up to 75 percent of its maximum capacity or more. Examples of high intensity exercise are High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT), TABATA Drills, Boot Camp, Boxing, Step Classes, and Cross Fit. Results from the study showed that a 1-hour high intensity workout burns the same amount of fat as two hours of moderate-intensity exercise.
The 40-day physical activity study was a randomized intervention trial designed to increase physical activity of insufficiently active adults. More than 620 adults participated in the research project. They were divided and randomly assigned to 1 of 2 exercise programs. Subjects were screened at the end of 40 days and also at 3,6, and 12 months post-intervention. Researchers assessed the effects on four disease risk factors: body fat and weight, cholesterol, hip and waist girth, and aerobic fitness.
Group one was the pedometer participants. They were equipped with a pedometer and emailed walking maps and daily challenges. The first week they were instructed to achieve at least 5,000 steps per day and they gradually increased their steps until they reached the goal of 10,000 steps by week six.
Group two was the Group Fitness participants. They were asked to perform a one hour high-intensity workout three times a week wearing a heart rate monitor. They attended instructor-led classes three times a week and could participate in activities of their own on the alternate days. They were required to do at least 30 minutes of activity everyday.
It has long been noted that group fitness increases adherence and participation. Group fitness combines elements that research has shown to be important for long-term behavioral change. Group classes help participants stay accountable and it also provides opportunities to enhance social networks and group cohesiveness. For the project, it was designed to prevent boredom by constantly switching out the scheduled activities such as body awareness routines, core stability/flexibility sessions, circuit training, team-building challenges, and modified sports and games. Fitness instructors were also available and on hand to provide leadership, instruction, feedback, and guidance throughout the physical activity programs.
A significantly higher adherence pattern was found for the group versus pedometer participants up to six months. Dr. Norton also noted that the high-intensity group achieved significantly greater health benefits compared to the pedometer and control group. In relation to aerobic fitness, it would take 50 hours of walking to achieve the same aerobic fitness achieved by just one hour of high intensity activity.
In reference to cholesterol, Dr. Norton explains that it would take five hours of walking to see the same improvements as one hour of vigorous exercise. As for body mass index, it would take 8 hours of walking. For their next research project, they plan on looking at the effects of vigorous exercise such as boot camp but then sitting for long periods and how your metabolic and fitness profile changes. She believes that if you participate in a high intensity workout, it will counteract a lot of sitting. Your body continues to burn those calories hours after your workout is finished.
Any form of exercise is better than nothing, but if you want the fastest most efficient way to achieve health benefits, sign up for a high intensity workout class. Time to try that Boot Camp class!