Simple Way to Make Workouts Easier

In All Health Watch, Featured Article, Fitness and Exercise, General Health

When you go to the gym these days, it seems that most people are using earbuds or headphones.

Some listen to podcasts. Others favor books on tape. And, of course, many listen to music. 

For years, we’ve been telling you about the advantages of high-intensity interval training (HIIT) over other forms of exercise. And now new research shows that you can make these types of workouts easier and more enjoyable by making the right listening choice…especially if you’re new to exercising.

The study was published in the journal Psychology of Sport & Exercise. Researchers enlisted 24 people who had never been exercisers. They trained the subjects in a one-minute HIIT workout. It involved three 20-second spurts of full-exertion, with two minutes of recovery between each.[i]

Researchers fitted the subjects with heart rate monitors before each workout. Then they asked the volunteers if they minded hearing some music while they exercised. They were given a choice of rock, pop, or hip-hop.

The volunteers didn’t know that their reaction to the music was being gauged. They only knew their emotional and physiological responses were being monitored.

The up-tempo songs had previously been selected by listeners who judged them to be good music to exercise to. Tunes included “Can’t Hold Us,” by Macklemore and “Let’s Go,” by Calvin Harris.

Afterward, the subjects rated how difficult each exercise session felt and how to what degree—if any—they enjoyed it.

The volunteers later did the workouts twice more. Once without music, and once while a podcast played. In each instance, they rated the experience.

The researchers found subjects exercised hardest while listening to music, compared to silence or a podcast. Their heart rates were highest. And their power output was highest. They also reported enjoying the exercise more with music.

But the volunteers rated the level of difficulty as about the same for all three workouts. That means that although they were working harder with music, they didn’t notice the difference.[ii]

How to Do High-Intensity Interval Training

Research shows you get more health benefits from HIIT than you do from steady-state cardio. And it takes just a fraction of the time.

HIIT is adaptable to many activities. You can run, cycle, swim, do calisthenics, or use a rowing, stair climber, or elliptical machine.

Volunteers in the study were beginners, and so the researchers had them do the shortest, easiest version of HIIT. You may want to start with that one-minute version as described above if you are out of shape. And don’t forget the music.

After a few weeks, you can graduate to this longer version…

Warm up for three to five minutes doing your chosen form of exercise slowly.

Then do the exercise at the highest intensity you can for the next minute.

Slow down for a minute or two to catch your breath. Then go hard again for another minute.

Repeat this process five to seven times. Afterward, do the activity slowly for at least two minutes to cool down.

The idea is to push your body for a brief burst, and then allow it to recover. HIIT allows you stay in great shape even when you don’t have time for a long workout.

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