Time is in short supply. Among the near-constant deluge of emails, red-dot notifications and work deadlines it can be almost impossible to find the hours, plus the motivation, needed to stay physically fit. More than a quarter of the world’s adults aren’t active enough, a study in the Lancet Global Health journal found in September 2018. What’s worse is that during the 15 years from 2001 to 2016, there was only a one per cent improvement in activeness from adults around the globe.
Thankfully, there’s no need to spend hours running through all weather conditions to be in shape. It’s recommended that adults complete 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity a week, 75 minutes vigorous exercise, or a combination of the two. All you need is a lunch hour – and in many cases not even a full 60 minutes. It’s one time of day that can be reclaimed and used to improve health – and a good excuse to get away from your desk.
First, goals: before starting to work out, people need to know what they’re aiming for – being able to run five kilometres, feeling stronger and healthier, or losing some weight. The next step is working out how to achieve it. “Fitness programs tend to be about getting someone from point A to point B and most people will already have an idea of what their point B would be,” explains Nike trainer Luke Worthington. It’s determining point A that is crucial.
He recommends visiting a professional, but if cost or time reasons are a deterrent, Worthington says it is possible to do it alone. All exercise is made up of seven types of movements: squat; hinge; vertical push and pull; horizontal push and pull; and the lunge. Combining all of these movements into an exercise routine will make sure the body gets a full workout each time.
Group exercise classes have grown in popularity, and Instagram, YouTube and Silicon Valley have helped boutique fitness sessions emerge. Australian fitness franchise F45 Training, which, after an investment round that included actor Mark Whalberg, is valued at around $450 million, has spread globally. It has more than 1,500 studios in 40 countries and plans to open 10,000 franchises in the US alone. Elsewhere there’s Barry’s Bootcamp, SoulCycle and Peloton.
Almost all of these specialise in millennial-favourite workouts called high-intensity interval training (HIIT). The exercise type is tough: short, intense bursts of activity (such as push-ups or burpees) are interspersed with brief rests. Because of their high effort movements, HIIT sessions can quickly burn calories and provide full body workouts. They are also easily tailored for any level of fitness – a beginner can exercise for 30 seconds then rest for 30 seconds; someone who is fitter could exercise for 45 seconds then rest for 15 seconds. “At HIIT you’re working at a much higher intensity, which is why you get the same effects in a shorter amount of time as if you were running for an hour,” says Gede Foster, the head of fitness at exercise startup Fiit.
Crucially, HIIT workouts aren’t too onerous on time. Most classes can be completed in 20-45 minutes. Foster says 300-400 calories can be burnt in one 25-minute session. It’s this that has made the classes popular with those short on time. “Going to the gym can be quite boring experience – and a time-consuming part of your day,” explains Ian McCaig, co-founder of Fiit.
The London-based startup, which has raised £6.5m, provides users with workouts through their phone or TV. McCaig’s firm offers HIIT workouts but he thinks other alternatives are important too. “What you find is people are doing four or five HIIT classes a week, and not necessarily complementing it with a yoga practice or pilates,” he says. Fiit provides HIIT videos, strength sessions and mindfulness options that are all designed to help recovery and reduce the chance of injuries.
Worthington agrees. He says strength training should be a key element of anyone’s attempt to get fit again – especially if they’ve been away from exercise for a long time. “Whatever your goals, a stronger body will allow you to achieve them,” he explains. “It gives you the stability required for dexterous movements such as yoga or dance, and ensures your body is resilient enough to undergo conditioning workouts if you are looking to lose weight. It also keeps you safe as lack of strength, or imbalanced strength, is the primary cause of most sports injuries.” He suggests two strength sessions should be combined across a week with cardiovascular training, such as running or cycling, and an interval session (which could be HIIT).
Importantly, for people starting to workout again for the first time in years, there will be quick benefits. “The effects of training are actually greatly increased in someone new to, or just returning to exercise,” Worthington says. “Embrace these first few weeks of a training program and the dramatic changes in strength stamina and body composition that will occur”. After this, it only gets harder.
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