HIT, or High Intensity Training, sounds like the reluctant exercisers dream. The theory goes that you can get fit, lose weight and improve your cardio-vascular fitness with just short two-minute bursts of vigorous exercise.
Why spend hours a week getting sweaty and exhausted when the same results could be achieved with far less punishment and inconvenience?
Before I go further with this, you may also have heard of HIIT (high intensity interval training). This is the same method with rest periods in-between the fast and furious activity and is favored by many athletes including sprinters. Here I'll just look at the HIT variant.
HIT came on the scene in the late 1970s and is attributed to Arthur Jones (the founder of Nautilus fitness equipment - which incidentally I reckon is the best brand name in fitness!) Originally it was applied to weight training and the idea being to apply a huge amount of effort over a short period (sometimes as brief as 30 seconds). This would take the muscle to the edge of fatigue and in most cases even failure!
The theory is that this sort of training forces the muscles to adapt to the high demands placed upon them so they'll be better equipped next time around. I guess we could look on this a mini-evolutionary process - the same principle behind aerobic fitness training.
More recently, research has increased the interest in HIT beyond the usual athletic and strength training fields. For today's busy person, the research showed just 60 seconds a week(!!!!) Yes that's a whole week - could be very beneficial to health including having a positive effect for type 2 diabetics..
You can read the full article by Doctor Michael Mosley here. Or watch the good doctor complete one cycle of an HIT session in the video below.
BUT... I believe there are risks involved in this sort of training. Andrew Marr, a BBC political correspondent blamed a HIT session on his rowing machine for suffering a stroke - see story here.
I really don't think it's a good idea to go from zero to 100 miles an hour without any sort of warm-up or preparation, With the sort of vigorous activity recommended for HIT, it's likely your heart will very quickly reach its maximum recommended beats per minute (MHR) - check out the formula to find you MHR.
AND... I think this approach misses a vital component in improving health and well-being.
So what do I mean? There's more to exercise than just getting fit. What about the enjoyment of achieving a goal? I can still remember the thrill of running my first half-marathon - and that was in 1983! A 30 second burst of high energy on an exercise bike can never compare with a 30 minute run on a fine spring day.
Yes, both activities raise endorphin levels (the feel-good hormone) but a good run in the fresh air is a great stress-buster for clearing your mind, or helping you to see things differently. I also believe the longer times exercising well help you get into The Zone - that sublime state where everything becomes easy and immensely satisfying. If you want to know about this phenomenon, I've written a book on this subject with practical tips on how you can reach it for yourself - see more here.
Th same state can be reached on your rowing machine - see my tips for duration workouts to see how.
So while we all have similar goals from our fitness regimes. maybe think about the other less obvious benefits of setting targets and taking the steps to achieve them can bring. If we can do it for fitness, then surely our confidence gets a boost for applying the same mindset to our business and family life.
So what's best. Thirty seconds of pain on an indoor bike? (and believe me, it can hurt!) Or a bit of me-time where you can take a step back from the world and lose yourself in the joys of a physical activity?
I know my answer. What about you?
Roy Palmer is an athletics coach, teacher of The Alexander Technique and a rowing fanatic.