You’ve heard all about the benefits of high-intensity interval training (HIIT). But if the “high-intensity” part sounds a little too, er, intense, a new study has some advice for you: Grab your headphones.
When University of British Columbia (UBC) researchers asked people who were new to HIIT to try a sprint-interval workout either with or without music, both groups came away with positive attitudes. But those who sweated to a playlist felt even better about the routine than those who’d worked out in silence.
Listening to music may make it easier for people to adopt these types of HIIT routines, say the study authors. That could help them stay in shape, they add, by allowing them to squeeze short, effective workouts into busy days.
Lots of people exercise regularly, but they do steady-state cardio (like long, slow jogs) or low-intensity activity (like walking or yoga). And while there’s nothing wrong with those types of exercise, research has shown that interval training can provide many of the same benefits—like burning calories and strengthening your heart—in less time.
“There has been a lot of discussion in the exercise and public policy worlds about how we can get people off the couch and meeting their minimum exercise requirements,” said Kathleen Martin Ginis, PhD, professor of health and exercise sciences at UBC, in a press release. “The use of HIIT may be a viable option to combat inactivity, but there is a concern that people may find HIIT unpleasant, deterring future participation.”
To examine newbies’ attitudes and intentions toward HIIT, researchers recruited 20 men and women unfamiliar with these types of workouts. After two preliminary training sessions, the participants completed two sprint interval training workouts on stationary exercise bikes about a week apart—one with music and one without. Each session included four to six 30-second “all-out” bouts of pedaling, separated by four minutes of rest.
After each session and again after a final follow-up meeting, the participants were asked to rank the workouts in terms of how enjoyable, beneficial, pleasant, painful, and valuable they found them to be. They were also asked how likely it was that they would do a similar workout three times a week going forward.
On average, the exercisers had already expressed positive assumptions about HIIT before the study began. And it turns out, their attitudes were just as positive after trying it for themselves. That was somewhat surprising, says study co-author and PhD candidate Matthew Stork, given the intensity of the workouts. But there’s more: Overall, the exercisers rated their session with music as more positive than their session without.