The 3-minute HIIT that shapes you up

Weight loss and fitness programs come in all shapes and sizes, from calorie counting and portion sizing to Pilates and fitness boot camps. New products that promise better bodies and healthier lifestyles keep hitting the infomercial space. Marketing to something so central to the human condition can be a surefire success.

There is another newish fitness plan buzzing around, called HIIT. And it’s free, because it is a concept and not a piece of equipment or meeting group with planned meals for order. The gist of it is that people can improve their levels of fitness with just three minutes of this type of exercise per week.

“It goes against everything I was taught in medical school, and everything I have ever read since,” medical journalist Dr. Michael Mosley told BBC TV in 2012. Mosley’s one-hour special program, “The Truth About Exercise,” was all about how what he learned in medical school about exercise and weight loss has been turned on its head.

The HIIT concept stands for high-intensity interval training. In essence, the person would do “a number of shorts bursts of intense and effortful exercise with short recovery breaks in between.” These short effortful bursts can be things like, sprinting, peddling a stationary bike, punching a heavy bag or pulling a rowing machine.

While there have been a few other fitness programs similar to HIIT, including PACE and some military programs that use bodyweight exercises, HIIT seems to be pushing short, fast, intense programs into the limelight again. And as more research comes out supporting the benefits of such programs, it seems easier than ever to get a grip on our weight and fitness issues. According to a study published in The Journal of Physiology, “A growing body of evidence suggests that high-intensity interval training (HIIT) induces numerous physiological adaptations that are similar to traditional endurance training despite a lower total exercise volume and training time commitment. Low-volume HIIT is characterized by brief repeated ‘bursts’ of vigorous exercise interspersed with periods of rest or low-intensity exercise for recovery.”

HIIT is a concept and requires no special equipment and can be carried out almost anywhere, depending on the chosen method. A stationary bike uses no space but may require on to join the gym or YMCA.

Lead study author, Professor Martin Gibala of McMaster University in Ontario, Canada, finds that overall HIIT programs provide “the same physical benefits as traditional endurance training.” This is the case even through total exercise time is only three minutes per day, as compared with typical 30- to 60-minute sessions.

Sprinting requires only a tract of land or road. Pushing yourself to go all-out during each 30-second burst of exercise was the standard. However, less extreme but still moderately intense sessions have shown to be just as effective. For example, sprinting or stationary biking to about 95 percent of maximum heart rate (MHR), showed to be quite effective, yet is about half the effort put forth versus an all-out burst.

The HIIT Routine

Here’s a simple way to use HIIT as part of your ongoing exercise plan.

  • Be sure to warm up first, since the bursts can be intense.
  • Pick your mode of exercise: bike, run, jumping jacks, etc.
  • Push yourself to 95percent MHR for 30 seconds.
  • Go slow to cool down and recuperate for four minutes.
  • Repeat for a total of six 30-second intervals.

What you have is about a 30-minute routine that included only three minutes of exercise. It does not overtax your heart or your joints because of the low duration of each effort segment. What’s happening is that this HIIT process improves insulin mechanism, improving the resistance that many diabetics and couch potatoes suffer.

Insulin resistance occurs when the body has low insulin sensitivity. The result of this is too much insulin, glucose and fat remaining in blood circulation. Those who suffer insulin sensitivity are at greater risk for serious diseases like syndrome-X (metabolic syndrome) and, thus, heart disease, stroke and Type II (adult onset) diabetes.

Historically, diet and exercise in general are the main ways (aside from drugs) to improve health, improve insulin sensitivity and reduce risk of heart disease, stroke and diabetes. The research shows that the HIIT concept of exercise, even just three minutes per week “can improve insulin sensitivity by 24 percent.”

Amazing? Too good to be true? Well, give it a try. Dedicate three minutes per week to high-intensity interval training and see what benefits you reap. Not having enough time to exercise is no longer an excuse not to be well.


How To Get Fit With 3 Minutes Of Exercise A Week: BBC Doc Tries “HIT”Medical News Today

Just HIT it! A time-efficient exercise strategy to improve muscle insulin sensitivityThe Journal Of Physiology

Dr. Mark Wiley

By Dr. Mark Wiley

Dr. Mark Wiley is an internationally renowned mind-body health practitioner, author, motivational speaker and teacher. He holds doctorates in both Oriental and alternative medicine, has done research in eight countries and has developed a model of health and wellness grounded in a self-directed, self-cure approach. Dr. Wiley has written 14 books and more than 500 articles. He serves on the Health Advisory Boards of several wellness centers and associations while focusing his attention on helping people achieve healthy and balanced lives through his work with Easy Health Options® and his company, Tambuli Media.