HIIT workouts a good fit for workplaces

Jun 10 2020

Participants in a workplace-based High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) study felt better, slept better and were more motivated and fitter after just eight weeks, physical activity researchers from the University of Newcastle (UON) and Hunter Medical Research Institute have found.

The ‘WorkHIIT’ pilot trial enlisted almost 50 UON staff members with predominantly sedentary office jobs, many of whom were sitting for much of the day. Half of the group underwent two to three HIIT sessions of 10 minutes duration per week for the eight weeks, while the remainder continued their normal routines.

“Despite strong evidence supporting the benefits of HIIT, no previous study has evaluated the efficacy and feasibility of this training delivered in a ‘real world’ setting for low-active and time-poor adults, particularly looking at the physical and mental health outcomes,” WorkHIIT trial leader Dr Narelle Eather says.

“Workplaces obviously have great potential for health promotion but are under-utilised, especially with programs like this that are cost effective, time effective and enjoyable for participants.”

Various themed sessions – Office-HIIT, Work-HIIT and Sport-HIIT – were run, involving combinations of aerobic (shuttles, skips, bear walks) and resistance (push-ups, squats, sit-ups) exercises using either body weight or basic sports equipment, interspersed with short rest periods.

Monitoring showed that the workout participants reached and maintained above-target intensity levels for heart rate (>85 per cent average) and reported feeling better immediately after their short bout of high-intensity activity. There were also significant benefits for muscular fitness, weekday sleep and motivation to exercise.

These findings may have important implications for health and lifelong participation in physical activity, Dr Eather believes.

“You get maximum bang for buck with HIIT,” she adds. “Training sessions can be easily adapted to suit the skills, fitness levels and interests of individuals or groups, and you need very little equipment or organisation.

“We believe just about any employer, any business, could run WorkHIIT in a small office space or courtyard to help staff circumnavigate the many barriers to physical activity participation and improve their health status.”

Survey results, recently published in the international journal Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, indicated high satisfaction levels, with most participants believing that Work-HIIT should be availed to other employees.

Doctor Narelle Eather is from the University of Newcastle, researching in conjunction with HMRI’s Cardiovascular Program. Other researchers involved in the WorkHIIT trial include Dr Mark Babic, Dr Nicholas Riley, A/ Prof Nigel Harris, A/ Prof Mary Jung, Mikeelie Jeffs, Briana Barclay and Professor David Lubans. Funding was provided by a National Heart Foundation (Innovation Challenge) grant.