HIT Motivates the Sedentary to Workout More

Couch potatoes get more out of high-intensity workouts because they stick with it longer. Enjoyment plays a big part.

At the end of a long work day/week, there is nothing more appealing than spending a bit of time relaxing on the couch, in bed, or in a comfy chair with your favorite book, game, or TV show. It can be tough to put aside the stressors of your work life and force yourself to work out. Humans are more prone to being couch potatoes than gym addicts, so of course, we’re going to prefer the easier, more relaxing activities. According to a new study from McMaster University, you’ll find it much easier to get going with a HIT workout, surprisingly enough.

Kinesiologists from McMaster University gathered sedentary young adults and put them to exercising. One group performed a traditional moderate-intensity exercise, while the other group was assigned High-Intensity Training (HIT). At the beginning of the program, both groups reported similar levels of enjoyment. However, by the end, the HIT group reported much greater enjoyment than the moderate exercise. In fact, the HIT group’s enjoyment continued to increase throughout the testing period. The more they engaged in HIT training, the more they enjoyed it.

“The physical benefits of exercise are widely known, yet half of the adult population is not sufficiently active for good health,” explains Jennifer Heisz, as assistant professor in the Department of Kinesiology at McMaster and lead author of the study.

“For sedentary individuals, a key barrier to starting an exercise program is the preconceived notion that exercising is not enjoyable. Failing to find enjoyment from exercise can make it more difficult to stick to an exercise program over time,” she says.

Mean exercise enjoyment across the first six weeks of high-intensity interval training (HIT) and moderate continuous training (MCT).

At the beginning of the training, sedentary young adults in the HIT group reported similar levels of enjoyment to those in the moderate exercise group. However, as training progressed and the participants got stronger, enjoyment for the HIT group increased. Levels for the moderate group remained constant and lower.

The findings are important, say researchers, because they suggest high-intensity workouts might help sedentary adults to stick to a workout routine.

“Enjoyment during these first weeks of adopting a new exercise program may be especially important for preventing dropouts,” says Heisz.


1. Jennifer J. Heisz, Mary Grace M. Tejada, Emily M. Paolucci, Cameron Muir. “Enjoyment for High-Intensity Interval Exercise Increases during the First Six Weeks of Training: Implications for Promoting Exercise Adherence in Sedentary Adults.” PLOS ONE, 2016; 11 (12): e0168534 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0168534.