Of all the excuses we come up with to skip the gym, timing is likely the most popular—and in many cases, it might also be the most legitimate. When you're slammed at work and have other responsibilities at home, finding a whole hour (and change, if you're accounting for travel time) to spend at the gym each day can be tough.
This is why the rise of high-intensity interval training (colloquially known as HIIT) has been so welcome. The idea that we only need roughly 10 minutes of high intensity exercise to not just fulfil our daily fitness requirements but actually continue burning fat and calories long after we've finished is an undeniably exciting development for any time-strapped individual. But new research shows there's an even simpler approach to the 10-minute workout than we initially thought. Better yet, it doesn't even require any fitness level, or special equipment, for that matter—just you and a flight of stairs.
In the study, scientists assigned a series of interval workouts to a group of sedentary young women. All the workouts were 10 minutes long, and the women were instructed to perform them three times a week for six weeks. The scientists then monitored their respiratory fitness.
Of the different workouts they tried, it turned out that one garnered some particularly impressive results: When the women walked up stairs for 20 seconds at a time, followed by two minutes of rest—repeated a total of three times—their respiratory fitness increased by 12%. (For reference, that's the equivalent of interval sprints on a stationary bike.)
In all, walking up stairs for a few seconds at a time certainly beats doing burpees for 12 minutes, and devoting just 30 minutes a week to getting in shape is beyond doable. If you happen to live in a walk-up apartment, you're basically set.
On that note, learn other ways to get in shape without trying too hard (or spending too much).
Gillen JB, Martin BJ, MacInnis MJ, Skelly LE, Tarnopolsky MA, Gibala MJ. Twelve weeks of sprint interval training improves indices of cardiometabolic health similar to traditional endurance training despite a five-fold lower exercise volume and time commitment. PLoS One. 2016;11(4):e0154075. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0154075
Allison MK, Baglole JH, Martin BJ, Macinnis MJ, Gurd BJ, Gibala MJ. Brief intense stair climbing improves cardiorespiratory fitness. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2017;49(2):298-307. doi:10.1249/MSS.0000000000001188