The No Excuse Workout

by Ashley Cummings on September 25, 2012

Say goodbye to the familiar phrase, “I just don’t have time to workout”. Yesterday was the last day you ever had to say this.

The need to spend hours at the gym is over. High-Intensity Intermittent Exercise (HIIE), also called High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT), provides more benefits than long steady paced workouts (like a boring 30 minute elliptical session all at the same speed and a medium effort)…in less than half the time!

What is HIIE? HIIE involves intervals of hard work (where you cannot put in anymore effort) of a cardiovascular exercise that last anywhere between six seconds to a couple of minutes, then includes six seconds to a couple minutes of rest. Repeating these intervals for anywhere between three and 20 minutes. Additionally, HIIE workouts can be done anywhere and with little to no equipment.

Of course, consult your doctor before beginning any exercise program.

The article, “High-Intensity Intermittent Exercise and Fat Loss“, from the Journal of Obesity shows that HIIE has positive results for men and women, both young and old. The findings from this research show that HIIE training three times a week, for 2-6 weeks, results in health benefits such as: increased fat loss, increased muscle and heart strength, and decreased risk of type 2 diabetes.

A study from the article, “The effects of high-intensity intermittent exercise training on fat loss and fasting insulin levels of young women”, published in the International Journal of Obesity, supports these findings. A total of 45 young women performed sprints lasting eight seconds then engaged in 12 seconds of low-intensity cycling for a total 20 minutes in the HIIE group; cycled at a steady pace for 40 minutes; or did not perform any activity. The results of the 3 days a week, 15 week study showed that the participants in the HIIE improved their health greater than both the steady pace and control groups.

So, I’ve talked a lot about the benefits of HIIE, now what are the drawbacks? Well, you will be uncomfortable. You’re supposed to be–change doesn’t happen without work, right? …And you will sweat like a pig. So don’t plan on going anywhere before a quick shower. Lastly, it is possible to overtrain. Listen to your body, discomfort is different than pain.

While the above studies focused on repeated high intervals of sprinting and cycling, any heart pumping exercise where you are working at your full capacity will be valuable. More research must be done on the most favorable duration of HIIE workouts and program for attaining the most benefits, as well as with using strength training as a component.

Here’s a sample beginner workout that can be done in your living room:

  1. Warm-up with about 5 minutes of dynamic stretching.
  2. Choose 4 exercises that you can stand or maybe even find fun. For example, let’s use: jumping jacks, running in place, jumping rope, and squats (make sure your knees do not go over your toes). For the rest period, walk in place.
  3. Choose how many seconds of work and how many seconds of rest you would like. Let’s do 30 seconds work/15 seconds rest. (Smart phones have free interval timer apps to download)
  4. Choose how many circuits you would like to do. Beginners, start with one circuit (completing each of the four exercises one time each)–a total of 3 minutes.
  5. Push yourself as hard as you can, while maintaining good form. Enjoy your rest period!
  6. If you still feel like you have energy, complete another round.
  7. Cool down and stretch for 5 minutes. You did it!

See, that was awful feels good, doesn’t it? Yes, you want to quit and cry while you’re working, but it’s over so fast you forget how bad it was!

*If you get daring, try this video from (skip to 5:30 though, there is a long introduction.)

So, the next time to find yourself coming up with excuses, remember you can complete a workout in under five minutes, anywhere!


Image Courtesy of stock photo/

Boutcher, S. H. (2010). High-Intensity Intermittent Exercise and Fat Loss. Journal of Obesity 2011, 868305-10. doi: 10.1155/2011/868305

Boutcher, S. H., Chisholm, D. J., Freund, J., and Trapp, E. G. (2008). The effects of high-intensity intermittent exercise training on fat loss and fasting insulin levels of young women. International Journal of Obesity 32(4), 684-91.

Tom Jonaitis September 25, 2012 at 9:27 am

This is a very interesting topic, I recently watched a documentary on this by the BBC (, which also discusses possible protective effects of HIIE in relation to your diet, as well as a genetic component of exercise efficacy for fat loss etc.

Your article is good, but I would tie in some larger issues to give it a little more depth, and I would watch the colloquial language (I know it’s for the lay person, but I think you can still make it approachable without diminishing it).

Keep up the good work!

Ashley Cummings September 26, 2012 at 9:38 pm

I appreciate your input! I was trying to stick to the core of HIIE and leave the possibility of building on it for future posts. I also didn’t want to make beginners feel as if multiple behaviors needed to be changed as once, if I added in diet. But I probably could have tied it in briefly.

I will be more conscious of my language, as well. Thank you for your advice!

Margaret Freaney September 25, 2012 at 10:46 am

I liked the topic of this post but had a few questions. I am unsure from reading this who the intended audience is. For those of us who already have an exercise routine, and might be interested in trying a new one? Or for those that don’t exercise regularly? You gave a sample beginner workout, but the video shown seemed to be for those that have already had a lot of exercise experience. I know that those videos discourage people more than the thought of exercise does. Do you have more information on the health benefits of HIE vs other starter programs? Again great topic! Thank you for the post.


Ashley Cummings September 25, 2012 at 5:18 pm

Hi Margaret,

Thank you for your response!

I intended this article to be for those looking to begin working out and also for those who would like to try something new, see more results, or save time. I hoped the beginner sample would encourage those who do not already engage in physical activity to see the simplicity of HIIE. I understand the youtube video could discourage beginners, however, it is a sample for those more advanced exercise enthusiasts out there or a goal to work up to.

I do not have comparison articles on other beginner programs, but this would be a good idea for a future post! Thank you.


Margaret Freaney September 25, 2012 at 9:20 pm

Thanks for the clarification. I think I will point out the program to my roommates that have been wanting to start a program, but keep saying they cost too much.


Ashley Cummings September 26, 2012 at 9:35 am

Feel free to have them contact me with further questions. Or, if they would like more workout ideas!


Quintus September 25, 2012 at 12:07 pm

Hi Ashley,
Nice post. It made me so tired just reading it that I must go and lie down.
I get no exercise so I doubt that entering such a training program would be good for me. So I get the impression that your post is aimed at those who train. Now I don’t know the percentage of trainers within the population but it may encourage others to start. But not me.

Ashley Cummings September 25, 2012 at 5:21 pm


I appreciate your honestly! HIIE is not for everyone, but may be of interest to those who were unaware of the benefits or flexibility of this type of workout. Thank you for your feedback.

Kate Repetto September 25, 2012 at 12:26 pm

I think I just found my new morning wake up and feel good routine… now just gotta get a jump rope!! Also, I noticed the comment above about “colloquial language.” You article is friendly and reads smoothly — If you are are writing to the average person – it’s perfect! No one wants to sift through terms to try and figure out what they mean — that’s what you’re writing the article for! Great first article! You’ll work out the kinks as you go :)

Ashley Cummings September 25, 2012 at 5:25 pm


Thank you for your encouraging words! I’ll be in contact with you in a few weeks to check on your progress!

Rick September 25, 2012 at 8:09 pm

Interesting stuff. Easy to understand, and there are links to actual articles (one of which can be accessed freely by the public) for those of us who want to read in more detail.

A couple of typos:

pulished in >> published in
performed sprints lasting eight seconds then engaging in >> performed sprints lasting eight seconds then engaged in

Rick September 26, 2012 at 12:11 am

Sorry to chime in again, but I missed one:

HIIE training three times a week, for 2-6 weeks, result in health benefits >>

HIIE training three times a week, for 2-6 weeks, results in health benefits

Ashley Cummings September 26, 2012 at 9:33 am

Thank you, Rick. I have made the corrections.

Brian Hartl September 26, 2012 at 2:12 pm

Congratulations on your first posting. I thought it was very well done. I’m intrigued by this workout routine and would have never known about it without your article. Despite the drawbacks of the workout (discomfort and profuse sweating), you may have just motivated me to give it a try (followed up by a green berry smoothie, of course). My one suggestion for improvement is in the development of paragraph 6 where you discuss the three intervention groups studied in the second article. I was a bit confused the first time I read it. To make this more clear, a simple fix may be to use bullets when communicating to the reader the different intervention each group received.

Keep up the good work!

Ashley Cummings September 26, 2012 at 9:45 pm

Hi Brian,

Thank you for reading! I like your idea of using bullet points for the intervention groups. I will keep this in mind.

I hope you give HIIE a try! It can be a lot of fun and adds variety to any workout plan. I know some people whose kids do it with them (not in a forceful way, of course). The green berry smoothie could be used as a recovery drink!

I’m looking forward to your advice on future posts. Check back next week!

Elizabeth Fryer October 1, 2012 at 7:50 pm

Hi Ashley,
I’m a LinkedIn connection of Andrew Maynard’s and also a science editor/communicator. I also workout regularly, though now with less intensity than in years past. I’m 43 and at 41 was diagnosed with near adrenal burnout, which is not the same as overtraining. I guess it kind of is, but when I think of overtraining, I think of overuse injuries, like a pulled Achilles heel. My burnout resulted from too much intense working out/not enough time for recovery. When I read articles like your post, I wish they would include a warning about adrenal burnout. Or in addition to saying it’s possible to overtrain, give some symptoms of overtraining.

Adrenal burnout is relatively recent to be studied. Lots of medical professionals don’t know about it. It might make an interesting follow-up topic. Check with Ali Schumaker first. I commented similarly on her blog post. Symptoms of overtraining might be a good follow-up topic too. I didn’t have any besides digestive issues.

Ashley Cummings October 4, 2012 at 2:53 pm

Hi Elizabeth,

Thank you for commenting. I also see the importance of not overtraining. My goal was to try to motivate my audience to move more rather than less, since sedentary lifestyles are so common. But I will see what research I can find on taking time to recover, etc. since there are also individuals who push themselves too hard.


Max Thermo Burn and Beta Force May 6, 2013 at 10:33 pm

Great article. I am dealing with some of these issues as well.

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