HIIT the steps
We've all got access to steps or stairs, either inside or out, at home or at work. Sure, we can usually avoid them but, assuming knees allow it, our health will thank us if we don't. Steps are a really easy way of doing a HIIT (high intensity interval training) workout. You go up the steps for high intensity and down the steps for recovery.
Of course, steps aren't the only way to do HIIT. Cycling, sprints, swimming and any number of specific exercises can be done for short periods of time at high intensity. Time efficiency is what makes HIIT one of the most popular ways to exercise. Doing 3x 20 second high intensity intervals (The One-Minute Workout, by Dr Martin Gibala), with 1-2 minutes of recovery three times a week for 12 weeks, can produce the same improvements in fitness as seen with traditional cardio of 50 minutes of moderate exercise three times a week.
Doing HIIT regularly has been found to help with weight loss, target dangerous visceral fat, reduce high blood pressure, increase muscle strength, improve insulin sensitivity and improve muscle oxygen consumption, which means better athletic performance, endurance and recovery.
Aerobic fitness, which is the strength of the heart and lungs, and metabolic fitness which is the body’s ability to cope with high levels of blood sugar, are great predictors of future health and are both improved with HIIT.
Research has shown HIIT can also be beneficial for older adults. A 2017 study found this type of training increased the number and health of mitochondria (boosting the muscle's ability to produce energy) and triggered the growth of new muscle (helping counteract the muscle loss that comes with ageing). The changes were more dramatic in an over 65 age group compared to an under 30 age group (Robinson et al. 2017, Cell Metabolism).
HIIT may also benefit people with chronic disease but, if you have an underlying health condition, do ask your doctor first if this type of workout is suitable for you.
Recovery between HIIT sessions is important so don’t overdue it. Balance 1-2 HIIT sessions a week with other light or moderate exercise, such as gardening, yoga or taking a walk with a friend, all of which also benefit health and wellbeing.