Working out doesn’t mean going to the gym.
High-intensity interval training (HIIT) is a fitness trend that’s not going anywhere, but a new trend could get unfit people on the path to fitness. Meet high-intensity incidental physical activity (HIIPA). HIIPA refers to everyday activities — think hauling groceries and climbing stairs — that get you huffing and puffing.
Don’t confuse it with HIPAA, short for Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act — the law that protects your medical information.
HIIPA can be a good first step for people who don’t normally exercise to get them on the road to fitness.
Researchers who explored HIIPA as part of a new study say that unfit, overweight people can leverage the opportunity for HIIPA to get more fitness into their routines.
“Regular incidental activity that gets you huffing and puffing even for a few seconds has great promise for health,” said Emmanuel Stamatakis, PhD, a professor at the University of Sydney’s Charles Perkins Centre and School of Public Health, in a statement.
His editorial published this month in the British Journal of Sports Medicine stated that many daily tasks are high-intensity activities. Incorporating more of these activities into the day could give many adults some big health benefits.
When an overweight or unfit person participates in a high-intensity activity, it requires more than six times the energy than they expend while at rest.
If sedentary people get more of those activities into their day and repeat them — just three to five sessions for 5 to 10 minutes per day, the researchers contend — it could have health advantages similar to HIIT.
“There is a lot of research telling us that any type of HIIT, irrespective of the duration and number of repetitions, is one of the most effective ways to rapidly improve fitness and cardiovascular health, and HIIPA works on the same idea,” Stamatakis said.
Not everyone thinks that doing things like lugging in grocery bags separately instead of all together are really beneficial in terms of fitness.
Celebrity trainer Jillian Michaels, who created the My Fitness by Jillian Michaels app, told Healthline that stand-alone daily tasks absolutely don’t count as a workout.
“I mean, most people already do this stuff every day, right? And many of those people still have weight they could lose or health that could be improved,” she said.
While something is always better than nothing, she maintains that daily tasks aren’t a workout.
“If you want an actual micro workout, I would make 10 minutes a day your minimum,” she noted, advising to use techniques such as free weights or HIIT to make the time count.
“You don’t need a gym, but you do need more than washing a car or carrying groceries,” she said.
Aerobic activity is important for all populations. Reaching a target heart rate of 65 to 80 percent of your max for a specific duration is key and can’t be undermined overall.
Some people may be more likely to do 10 three-minute micro bursts a day compared to a 30-minute session. In that case, the net goal of the day is the same. But if that person is already doing 30 minutes of cardio a day (or regularly), they would need to increase intensity or duration to achieve further fitness goals.
Stahl believes that HIIPA could be useful to get more sedentary people moving and then working up to more intense workouts. “If it creates a behavioral change and challenges your body beyond current adaptability, it is a net win and will be a step to reaching any array of fitness goals,” she told Healthline.
Want to give HIIPA a try? Take the stairs numerous times a day if the elevator is your norm. Or add in squats while you fold laundry if you otherwise sit on the couch and fold it.
“These are functional for very unfit people. If you change the population to slightly more fit from a few weeks of these micro efforts, you can add in a brisk walk before and after dinner, add in situps and pushups before you get the day started in the morning, add in the office calendar reminder to do 10 squats per hour throughout the day,” Stahl said.
“If it’s considered a challenge, it’s likely to reap the health benefits,” she added.
Wendie Pett, founder of Visibly Fit, told Healthline that attaching a micro exercise to a daily tasks (think squats while folding laundry) creates a neurological association between the normal activity and the micro exercise.
“This develops a habit. It becomes built into your day as a feasible, legitimate workout without it actually feeling like one,” Pett noted.
Don’t expect HIIPA to be hailed as highly as HIIT, though, Stahl said. Instead, it should be the tool that gets someone started with a fitness routine.
“It’s a great approach for someone that needs small attainable goals before shopping for their new workout gear and walking through the gym doors,” she said.