PhotoHigh-intensity interval training (HIIT) has been shown to help consumers lose weight faster, and now researchers are exploring how everyday activities -- like carrying groceries -- can contribute to improved physical fitness.

Known as “high intensity incidental physical activity” (HIIPA), people that struggle with incorporating exercise into their lifestyles can take a cue from HIIT and start adding in short bursts of exercise with things that they are already doing on a daily basis.

“Regular incidental activity that gets you huffing and puffing even for a few seconds has great promise for health,” said researcher Emmanuel Stamatakis. “There is a lot of research telling us that any type of HIIT, irrespective of duration and number of repetitions is one of the most effective ways to rapidly improve fitness and cardiovascular health and HIIPA works on the same idea.”

Don’t stop moving

The researchers’ ideas are based on the notion that varying body types, health conditions, and ages all contribute to how people’s bodies process exercise, which is where “incidental physical activity” comes into play.

According to the group, any activity that consumers don’t intend to be exercise -- such as walking around the mall or climbing stairs at home -- is considered incidental physical activity if it can get your heart pumping.

Because of the flexibility with activities and the low time commitment, the researchers consider this a great alternative for those who struggle with the physical act of exercise or who don’t have the time in the day to exercise for extended periods.

The team recommends dedicating roughly five to ten minutes a day for several days a week to these activities to get the most optimal benefits. The researchers suggest something as simple as parking further away from a destination to increase the distance you have to walk upon arrival can count towards HIIPA.

“The beauty of HIIPA and the idea of using activities we are already doing as part of every day life is that it is much more realistic and achievable for most people,” Stamatakis said. “The time commitment for HIIPA is close to zero minutes per day, and people could save even more time if their HIIPA involves brief walking sprints, or taking the stairs instead of waiting for the lift.”

Making the most of your time

Recently, a great deal of exercise research has focused on how consumers can make the most of little time spent in the gym. Experts have found that your metabolism can feel the effects of one workout for up to two days later, while climbing the stairs in short bursts can improve health.

“We know that sprint interval training works, but we were a bit surprised to see that stair snacking approach was also effective,” said researcher Jonathan Little. “Vigorously climbing a few flights of stairs on your coffee or bathroom break during the day seems to be enough to boost fitness in people who are otherwise sedentary.”


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