Your office buddy’s CrossFit obsession may actually have a bit of science behind it, apparently.
According to a recent study published in the journal PLOS ONE, people may get more joy out of short, high-intensity workouts than in slogging away on the treadmill.
To reach this conclusion, researchers recruited 12 regularly active men and women to exercise on a bike in two ways: in eight, 1-minute-long bursts at 85 percent of their maximum workload, and at a breezier 20-minute-long bike ride at 45 percent of their capacity. Predictably, the volunteers felt more tired and had higher heart rates during the more intense cycling session, but nearly everyone also rated it as more enjoyable than the longer bout of biking. All told, over 90 percent of the volunteers said they preferred the high intensity interval training (HIIT) exercise as well as enjoyed it more.
The sample size of 12 people was very small and consisted mostly of active people, but the authors believe their findings support an “increasing integration of HIIT into the regular exercise routine of healthy, active individuals” as a worthwhile strategy to coax people into staying fit — especially since people’s often don’t go to the gym because they don’t have the time.
When asked why they preferred the HIIT routine, the volunteers said that they just felt more bored by the longer cycling. The researchers also speculated that the greater effort spent may have made people feel more accomplished and self-confident. But interestingly enough, they also reported feeling more negative during the HIIT session than they did during the longer session. This seeming contradiction might be explained by something called the dual mode theory of exercise, the researchers said.
Basically, exercise tends to make us happier afterwards, but during it, our level of enjoyment can vary depending on a number of factors, including how hard it is. Past a certain point of physical exertion, we start feeling crummy about what we’re doing. That obvious reality has made people doubt that HIIT could ever be made popular to the average sedentary person.
But people often stop exercising soon after starting, having trouble fitting in the routine. So while HIIT exercises might not catch on for everyone, particularly those in less shape to begin with, their greater enjoyment could convince some to stick to an active lifestyle, the researchers hope.