It’s no secret that fitness is a mental game. Now there’s research that suggests even overweight, sedentary adults can trick themselves into working harder in the gym.
A study in the journal Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise found that if you work out in short intervals as opposed to long stretches, it will feel easier, even if you’re doing the same amount of work overall.
This type of high intensity interval training, commonly referred to as HIIT, has been on the rise in the fitness world. Researchers have proven the benefits of short, intense bursts of exercise: they can burn more fat, increase levels of fitness, improve blood pressure and increase muscle activity.
There seems to be an interval-training sweet spot, the new study suggests. In it, researchers observed unfit and overweight adults as they did two types of exercise: heavy continuous exercise without a break, and three different intervals of exercise during which they rested for 30 seconds on and off, then 60 seconds on and off and 120 seconds on and off. The exercisers reported thinking that the 120-second trial would be the hardest, and they indeed perceived that shorter bursts were easier, in spite of the fact that they were all the same intensity. Short intervals of one minute or less may be a way to trick yourself into working harder, simply because it may seem easier, the researchers conclude.