I've never been a big believer in making New Year's resolutions.
The tradition often leads people to set big, ambitious goals... and feel frustrated when they don't see overnight results.
That's especially true with the most popular resolution Americans make each year – to lose weight. Often that comes with the resolution to start exercising.
The problem is, most people never complete their resolutions. According to a survey from the University of Scranton, after one month, 46% of people have quit working on their resolutions.
But exercise is crucial for your health and well-being. It not only helps you lose weight, but it improves circulation, memory, and boosts your serotonin levels (the happiness hormone).
Perhaps the most common reason people have for not exercising is they don't have time. To be fair, it's not just an excuse... exercising can be a big time commitment.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), adults need 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise per week (plus two days a week of strength exercises).
That's 30 minutes a day, five days a week, of exercise... plus all the time spent going to and from the gym. That's 10-15 hours a month, minimum.
But what if I told you there's a better way...
Earlier this year, I introduced my Retirement Millionaire subscribers to a new type of exercise. Research shows it is more effective than conventional strategies... and best of all: it only requires a few minutes a week.
I'm talking about high-intensity interval training (HIIT).
Just like the name suggests, HIIT is a workout strategy where you mix short, intense bursts of effort with longer recovery periods. It's intense, but it's considered safe for anyone, even older folks and people just getting started with regular exercise.
Studies show HIIT is more efficient than regular aerobic exercise. It improves your body's ability to burn fat and calories. A 12- to 15-minute HIIT workout is equivalent to an hour of steady aerobic exercise.
The most studied HIIT regimen is something called the Wingate. In the Wingate, the participant exercises at an "all-out" level of exertion for 30 seconds, then rests for about four minutes. This cycle repeats four to six times, so that the total exertion time is only two to three minutes. Participants complete this workout three times a week.
That's only nine minutes per week of intense exertion compared with 150 minutes of aerobics or 16 hours of walking. And according to additional research, reducing the intensity still provides benefits for people with somewhat limited mobility.
HIIT can benefit most people, even those with cardiovascular disease and diabetes. The key is to start at lower levels and build up slowly.
HIIT provides many great health benefits, including:
- Improves cardiovascular health (including lowering blood pressure),
- Builds muscle tissue,
- Increases metabolism (which helps generate body heat),
- Increases gastrointestinal transit speed (which reduces colon cancer risk),
- Eases arthritis,
- Improves bone mineral density,
- And reduces lower back pain.
I realize you might think HIIT is too difficult – after all, anything with "intensity" in the name sounds intimidating. So if you're apprehensive, I'd recommend fast walking for your first HIIT.
It's exactly like it sounds... You walk a few minutes to warm up, then walk fast for three minutes, then slow to a crawl, then fast again.
You can then work your way up to more difficult exercises. We've got a full list of HIIT regimens to try out in our newsletter, Retirement Millionaire. If you're already a subscriber, click here. And if you'd like to join, click here (this does not go to a long video).
Like any exercise program, HIIT does carry risks, especially if you're starting from a sedentary lifestyle. An Ironman athlete we spoke with (who uses HIIT for his training) suggested doing HIIT once or twice a week. This gives your body time to recover, so you can avoid injury. However, HIIT may not be for everyone. Research shows it's safe, but you should always discuss your exercise plans with your doctor.
Exercise is incredibly important to your health, and the sooner you start, the better. So do what I do and try a HIIT program once or twice a week. You'll find that you can finally keep that New Year's resolution and feel better, too.
What We're Reading...
- Some of our favorite books on HIIT include FastExercise: The Simple Secret of High-Intensity Training, Body by Science: A Research Based Program for Strength Training, Body Building, and Complete Fitness in 12 Minutes a Week, and HIIT: High Intensity Interval Training Explained.
- Why you might gain weight when you first start a new exercise program.
- Something different: Science magazine ranks the top 10 best science news stories of the year.
December 28, 2015