Believe me, each time I meet my friend - Param, who is a fitness freak, I gaze longingly and enviously at his trim and muscular physique. But when I hear about the hours he spends in the gym working out that lean mean muscle machine body of his, lifting weights and trudging away on the treadmill, I decide to give up the idea.
It is common that many young gym hitting people spend up to two hours working out, leading others to believe that anything less will be of no benefit. Experts also tell us that exercising for less than half an hour won't liberate us from that extra flab on the waist.
However, a fast- growing body indicates that intensity, not duration, is really the missing piece in our fitness puzzle.
So if you can mix the 15 minutes of jogging with one minute of sprint, the benefits are similar to those obtained from a long jog.
The human body can burn calories either from carbohydrates or fat depending on the intensity of the exercise. You burn more calories with sprinting than jogging, but most of it is carbs. Jogging also burns the carbs first, but after 30 minutes your body dips into the fat storage.
This concept also holds for those involved in weight training. The recommendation is that two body parts are exercised every day. This means at least eight exercises with three sets each which equals at least one hour with the weights. For the first 20 minutes, only the carbs are burned.
However, the latest research done by the Singapore College of Sports Medicine shows that a single set of 12 repetitions with the proper amount of weight can build muscle just as efficiently as can three sets of the same exercise. Proper weight is the one that's heavy enough to tire your muscles, and should push your body to the extent that you are barely able to finish the last repetition. This approach can drastically reduce the time you spend with weights.
An important consideration to keep in mind is that this may not be good for everyone, and you need to be in optimal health to opt for high intensity exercises since they put extreme stress on the body, leading to injuries.
An anaerobic workout does not require much oxygen and hence the heart and lungs are not exercised. For overall fitness you need to build your endurance levels too," explains Tony Hoe, Jandel master trainer.
The heart rate is kept up throughout the workout, providing the same benefits as the guy who mindlessly logs all those miles on the treadmill.
Fewer rest periods lead to an increase in the amount of testosterone you release, which serves to help your muscles grow. Flexibility in routine is another reason for the popularity of circuit training. Mixing yoga, kickboxing and pilates with traditional cardio and strength training throws up interesting combinations.
'You can blend cardio and strength exercises one day while the next day you can go for balance exercises with stretches. It pushes your body like intense workouts but does not compromise on other aspects of fitness,' says Hoe.
Research done at the University of Singapore found that just two weeks of interval training boosts women's ability to burn fat during exercise by 34 per cent. Anyone in good health might consider doing interval training once or twice a week.
Joggers can alternate walking and sprints while swimmers can complete a couple of fast laps, then four more slowly.
But since this can strain the cardiovascular system, you need to be in optimal health to perform interval training.