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High Intensity Training: A Full Workout In 20 Minutes

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(credit: CBS) Natalie Nyhus
Natalie Nyhus joined the WCCO-TV team in January of 2011. She repor...
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MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — We all know we need to exercise, but finding the time can be hard. Well, you can get rid of that excuse.

WCCO-TV Morning Traffic Reporter Natalie Kane found a new way to workout. It can give you better results in much less time. It’s a 20-minute workout that you can even do at home, or at the lakes.

No matter how much we pedal, lift, step and sweat, the exercise equation has always been the same. Time plus effort equals fitness. But what if somebody said you could speed up your workout and get the same results? Turn 60 minutes into 30, or maybe even 20.

Experts said it’s true, and it’s actually good for you.

“Now the American College of Sports Medicine is saying we need people doing vigorous physical activity,” said Dr. Stacy Ingraham, who teaches exercise physiology at the University of Minnesota. “Not just general activity.”

It’s called H.I.T., which stands for “High-Intensity Interval Training,” a concept that’s almost exactly the opposite of the long, continuous exercise idea we’re all used to.  Instead, you go hard then slow, hard then slow, usually in 60-second intervals.

“But that hard part is getting your heart rate above 160 for an extended period of time,” said Dr. Ingraham. “It’s exhausting, you recover and you do it again.”

A new study said 20 minutes of those intense intervals done three days a week have the same benefits as five hour-long traditional workouts. So the new exercise equation is really one hour equals five, if you do it right.

“You can do it all kinds of ways,” said Dr. Ingraham. “But it really is a consistent on-off, just hard-easy concept, and just extend that period to maybe 20 or 30 minutes.”

One place they’re doing it is The Firm in Minneapolis, where the CrossFit classes are becoming more and more popular.  CrossFit stands for “constantly varied high intensity functional movement,” and it’s a killer.

“You’re only working for 20 or 30 minutes in here,” said Michelle Horovitz. “But it’s so intense that you feel like you’ve just done an hour.” 

They do different exercises each day, from weight lifting to gymnastics moves to running and jumping, for 20 to 30 very hard minutes. 

But you don’t have to do it in a gym. Or in a class.

“CrossFit can be done anywhere,” said The Firm’s T.J. McNiff. “You could do it in your garage. You could go to the lake and you could knock out jumping jacks right to pushups right to burpies, and you don’t even need weights.”

In fact, there aren’t any rules to high intensity training other than alternating fast and slow, for the same amount of time. But if you don’t have a watch, you can sprint or cycle hard from telephone pole to telephone pole, go slow to the next, and then do it again. 

It’s a new exercise equation that adds up to better results.

“And if you do that three days a week,” said Dr. Ingraham, “you would see changes in body composition.”

Two other notes: Instead of going fast, you can also turn up the resistance on an exercise bike, or increase the angle on a treadmill for your hard intervals. And since you have to get your heart rate up so high for it to be effective, check with your doctor to make sure this workout is OK for you.

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