However, the observed laboratory sessions are not a good reflection of the exercises in real life. So, as a final step in the study, the researchers asked the volunteers to go home and train on their own for a month, keeping exercise diaries and then returning to the lab to talk to the researchers for a long time.
This month of do-it-yourself training proved to be significant. Almost all remained active, with most completing frequent, moderate exercises, such as 45-minute bike rides in the lab. But many of them also incorporated some kind of interval training into their weekly training, although few of these sessions repeated the structured intervals from the lab. Instead, people usually ran up and down stairs or snorted through some quick rips and other weight exercises.
The results of the study seem to suggest that many of us may want to consider HIIT if we haven’t already, says Matthew Stork, a postdoctoral fellow at the University of British Columbia who is leading the new study. We may be surprised if we like the workouts.
But, he points out, some volunteers continue to prefer the familiar, less intense exercise, and almost all have performed more of these sessions than at intervals.
“What the data actually shows is that there is no one-size-fits-all way to work,” says Dr. Stork. The best exercise will be what each of us ultimately enjoys the most, he says. It may take some experiments to focus on our favorite workouts.
Of course, this study included healthy young adults and followed them for a month. Whether people who are older or have health problems will react in a similar way at intervals, and whether anyone will stick to their chosen workouts for more than four weeks remains uncertain. Also, people who have not exercised for some time should usually consult a doctor before embarking on a new exercise routine.