Aug 22, 2014

    Fitness apps for the time-starved


    FITNESS buffs who cannot make it to the gym but still want to exercise can turn to apps for a short, intense workout.

    The United States Centers for Disease Control recommend that adults do at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity weekly. But recent studies suggest that even short bouts of exercise can have positive health effects.

    Sworkit, a new fitness app for iPhone and Android devices, takes users through workouts as short as five minutes and can be done anywhere.

    "A lot of people don't have a lot of time, so we created an app for people to squeeze in bite-sized increments of exercise throughout their day where they don't need to be at a gym or use equipment," said Benjamin Young, chief executive of Washington-based company Nexercise, creator of the app.

    The free app will put together a customised training circuit based on what users want to focus on (strength, cardio, or stretching), for how long, and the specific part of the body.

    The routine is made up of 30-second exercises which are demonstrated with videos. Users can also create their own workouts with the app.

    The Johnson & Johnson Official 7 Minute Workout app for iPhone and Android devices provides users with short fitness routines as well.

    "We live in a fast-paced, addicted-to-speed society where everyone is looking for quicker and faster solutions in all aspects of their lives," said Chris Jordan, director of exercise physiology at Johnson & Johnson's Human Performance Institute.

    The app uses videos to guide users through high-intensity circuit-training routines, customised based on fitness level and desired intensity.

    "A lot of people are convinced they need to go to a fancy gym with fancy equipment, but something like a squat is arguably more beneficial and transferable to life than a leg-press machine," Mr Jordan explained.

    Users can customise about 1,000 different workouts on the app, which is available in 30 countries.

    Greg Wells, assistant professor of kinesiology at the University of Toronto, said even small bursts of physical activity have a positive effect.

    "The physiology is such that you not only get a workout after the short seven minutes you do it, but you're also benefiting during the period after, when your body is recovering. So it could actually be 30 minutes of physical stress, and that's why these workouts can be really effective," he said.

    "But whether it's better than 40 minutes of interval training or an hour-long run, yoga class or weights, I'm not 100 per cent sure we can say that."

    He noted the surge in shorter workouts, including a 20-minute one at a Toronto gym called Medx Precision Fitness, where clients can exercise during a lunch break without changing clothes.