This post was updated on August 20th, 2021
If you have found it hard to difficult to motivate yourself during the last year, you’re not alone. But getting your body moving is extremely important now during this global health crisis than ever, especially if you are working from home and moving solely from your bed, to your desk chair, to the couch, and then back to your bed.
Many studies have shown the importance of getting up from your desk to stretch your body throughout the day. This period of working remotely is the perfect time to get yourself in a routine of doing good things for your body, like giving it breaks from sitting down.
If you pay attention to the online exercise community at all, you have probably heard of HIIT workouts, which stand for high-intensity interval training. Popular HIIT workouts include the seven-minute workout and the 23-minute workout. But more and more studies are proving that you might need way less time to get an effective workout in. Like way less.
You might only need four seconds to see results
A study, completed by Dr. Edward F. Coyle, a professor in the department of kinesiology and health education at the University of Texas Austin, and his team of researchers at the Human Performance Laboratory, has potentially amazing news for those who sit at their desk all day.
The study found that four-second sprints conducted five times per hour helped a person improve fat metabolism and lower triglyceride levels in the bloodstream.
“The key thing with fat metabolism is that you have to activate your muscles; you can’t let them be too inactive for very long,” Coyle told Healthline. “These sprints are just a very effective way of doing that.”
For the best results, Coyle additionally recommends mixing up the kind of exercises performed. More specifically, those who performed a combination of strength training workouts, yoga, and longer periods of walking (15-30 minutes, were better able to metabolize fat, increase their leg muscle mass, and improve their aerobic fitness.
The perfect exercise for those who sit?
The study aimed to examine this form of exercise with people who spend a large majority of their day sitting, like those with sedentary jobs.
The researchers asked eight volunteers, four men and four women, to come to their lab and sit for an eight-hour period – the length of a typical workday. The only exercise the volunteers were allowed to do during the eight hours was four-second sprints five times per hour, which means that volunteers did 20 seconds of exercise per hour or just under 3 minutes of exercise during the entire day.
The sprints were conducted on a specialized exercise bike that allows users to hit maximal energy exertion quickly, making it very effective for short bursts of high energy exercise. Lead researcher Coyle helped develop this piece of equipment, which he refers to as the “power cycle.”
The stationary bike is perfect for this type of exercise because it is more accessible and requires less room than other forms of high-intensity training, making it something you can easily have in the office…or in your home office.
Coyle has experimented with other forms of exercise, like running sprints and stair climbing, but they proved to be either inconvenient or even dangerous. According to Coyle, running sprints proved to work for college students, but middle-aged people were getting strained muscles, proving the exercise was not sustainable for them.
Timing is everything
Many people hit the gym before or after work, and some even sneak out to it during lunch. But as a majority of the workforce turns toward remote working, why not look into how we can incorporate exercise into the workday?
Coyle emphasizes that consistent bouts of exercise during the day can be very effective for people to meet their health goals.
“We need to clear that triglyceride from the bloodstream and if you’ve been sitting for long, you won’t have that increased clearance as a result of the bout of exercise,” Coyle said. “As far as fat metabolism goes, that bout of exercise done in the afternoon is not going to be very effective.”
Doing a virtual workout class before you start work or after you finish is always preferable to no exercise at all, but Coyle’s research suggests that if you are specifically concerned about fat metabolism, intermittent exercise throughout your workday could be more beneficial.