If you’re trying to lose weight or get in shape, chances are you’ve heard about the many benefits of high-intensity interval training, aka HIIT. A 20-minute sweat sesh can torch calories and fat, up your endurance and improve your cardiovascular fitness.
But new research shows it doesn’t take dedicated workout time to reap the benefits of high-intensity exercise. High-intensity incidental physical activity (HIIPA), or sporadic bursts of out-of-breath exercise throughout your day, can improve your health, too, says Joey Daoud, CEO of New Territory Fitness, an online daily fitness program. In fact, just three bouts of vigorous stair-climbing three days a week helped sedentary young adults boost their heart health, suggesting ‘exercise snacks’ are well worth adding to your day.
Since most of us fall short of the recommended amount of moderate-to-vigorous exercise (about 20 minutes a day), per the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, any exercise beats no exercise, says Kim Peek, a certified running coach and functional aging specialist. And on no-time-to-gym days, HIIPA’s your new best friend.
Here, everything you need to know about HIIPA, according to fitness experts.
HIIPA AND ITS BENEFITS
HIIPA’s your mini-HIIT workout. The goal is to add high-intensity moments into the existing structure of your day in order to get your heart pumping, says Peek. Depending on your fitness level, this could mean walking or sprinting uphill, taking the stairs instead of the elevator, or even turning your daily commute into a bike ride. The more ways you can incorporate active habits into your life, the better, says Allison Tibbs, a certified personal trainer and healthy lifestyle coach based in San Francisco, California.
For starters, it’s super convenient, says Daoud. By adding small workouts to your typical day, you can stay on track to reach your fitness goals and continue to improve your overall health, adds Tibbs. Getting in more physical activity with HIIPA can reduce your risk of chronic disease, make you feel better and even improve your sleep.
“A person who has been sedentary will see greater gains than someone who has been doing intense cardio for years,” explains Peek, “but even the experienced endurance athlete can use the concept to boost their fitness.” From a brisk walk around the office to a series of max-speed burpees, there are multiple ways to challenge yourself.
5 WAYS TO USE HIIPA
TURN CHORES INTO MINI-WORKOUTS
Since cleaning and organizing is a major part of our lives, it’s good to know household chores counts as exercise. Turn on some upbeat music to add some pep to your step, advises Tibbs. While vacuuming, dusting, mopping, etc., can burn roughly 120 calories in 30 minutes, don’t just walk — do lunges across the room and then do a quick squat series before you turn in another direction. Same with laundry — challenge yourself to squat then lift the load forward and up for a squat overhead press combo. Repeat 6–8 times or until you reach that out-of-breath sweet spot, suggests Peek.
WAKE UP WITH SQUATS
While your coffee is brewing or you’re heating up your lunch, do a series of squats or jump squats to get your blood flowing and feel the burn, says Peek. Track your progress by seeing how many you can do in 30–60 seconds.
SCHEDULE ‘TAKE TWO’S’
If you sit a lot, add 2–5-minute workout breaks throughout your day to boost your fitness and banish brain fog, advises Peek. To keep yourself accountable, set a reminder on your phone or fitness tracker every hour, then get up and go. You can hit the stairs, do walking lunges across the hallway or parking lot or even whip out a jump rope.
WALK AND TALK
If you have a one-on-one, low-stakes meeting in your schedule, see if you can step outside for an on-the-go chat, suggests Tibbs. Walking fosters creativity, and green exercise can boost your mood and energy levels, which is ideal for a midday pick-me-up.
BE A KID AGAIN
If you have children or grandchildren, the simplest way to get in some HIIPA is to join in on the fun, says Daoud. Head to the playground with your little ones to run around, play tag, crawl through the tunnels and swing on the monkey bars.