What do you do during your lunch break at work? Check you facebook? Call your partner? Scroll through twitter or spend the entire morning's earnings online shopping? Whilst this may well burn a hole in your pocket, it’s not going to burn many calories! With our lives becoming busier and busier and yet more and more sedentary, it's time to make every second count. HIIT has been found to burn on average 15 calories per minute, so if you can spare just 20 minutes of your lunch break, you could burn as many as 300 calories!

Why do I need to workout at work?

The NHS have recently published findings by Bazin from one of the largest studies in the UK and found that of its 800,000 participants those who sat the longest suffered:

  • 112% increase in risk of diabetes
  • 147% increase in cardiovascular events
  • 90% increase in death caused by cardiovascular events
  • 49% increase in death from any cause  

With these shocking risks, it's vital we make the most of every opportunity to be as active we can. For more on this see blog post on workouts at your desk

What is HIIT?

HIIT stands for High Intensity Interval Training, a workout protocol which involves bursts of high intensity all-out effort exercises followed by short rest periods. The aim being to maximise your calorie burn during a short amount of time by cranking your heart rate up with tough exercises. During HIIT you should be aiming for your heart rate to be in Zone 4 or even Zone 5, breaking the anaerobic threshold. Details of heart rate zones can be found here.

How does HIIT work?

The reason HIIT works so effectively is because it causes what we call an ‘afterburn’ effect. This is all do with our body’s need for oxygen, when you exercise during HIIT, the sheer intensity of the exercise causes an increased need for oxygen, so we end up with an oxygen shortage. This means your body has to find more oxygen in order to recover, known as EPOC, ‘Excess Post Exercise Oxygen Consumption’, which in turn boosts your metabolism and burns more calories.

How long do I need to do HIIT?

Typically a HIIT workout will last at least 20 minutes to give your body a chance to burn enough calories for it to be worthwhile during and allow for EPOC, but, of course, any workout is better than none whatsoever with Tabata lasting just 4 minutes in total.

Lunchtime HIIT workout routine

For an office blast try this 20 minute HIIT routine. What’s great about HIIT is it can be done using just your bodyweight, which means all you need is a little bit of space. If your office is cramped why not take this circuit outside? It’s intense enough that it will soon warm you up if it’s cold!

Before commencing a HIIT workout, be sure to warm up for 3-5 minutes. This can involve anything from jumping on the spot to star jumps, anything that will raise your heart rate and warm your muscles up so they are limber and protected from injury.

Top Tip: A lot of HIIT bodyweight circuits contain lots of exercises which put strain on the wrists such as planks, pushups and mountain climbers. Be sure to prepare your joints by circling your wrists back and forth before you get stuck in.

For each of the following exercises try 40 seconds of work vs 20 seconds of rest and then repeat from the top:

  • Burpees 
  • Mountain Climbers 
  • Push Ups 
  • Jumping Lunges 
  • High Knees 
  • Heel Flicks 
  • Frog Jumps 
  • Skaters 
  • Plank Up Downs 
  • Shadow Boxing Sit Ups

These badboy’s are often given a far less PG name for a reason, they’re tough. A great all over body exercise to elevate your heart rate and kick things off.Burpees

Mountain Climbers

This move fires up your abdominals whilst keeping your heart rate high. Assume a standard pushup position and run each leg in towards your chest as though you were running off the ground as fast as you can.

Workout at Work Mountain Climbers

Push Ups

Another great all over exercise, push ups can be intensified by lifting a leg, or eased up by coming down to your knees. The trick with push ups is to make sure that despite doing as many as you can at speed, you still make the full range of motion – it should look like your nose is near touching the floor.

Workout at work Pushups

Jumping Lunges

Adding plyometrics to any move makes it far more of a challenge. Assume your lunge position sinking nice and low, then as you extend through the legs jumps as high as you can and switch legs, so you are alternating the leg you lunge off, land in a lunging position with the other leg now leading the way. These are sure to set your quads on fire, but keep pushing through and use your arms to help drive you up.

High Knees

Jog on the spot bringing your knees up as high as you can in front of you, tilt your pelvis forward and lean back slightly to get more abdominal activation.

Heel Flicks

Now reverse! Jog on the spot flicking your heels up to your bottom as fast as you can to keep that heart rate up.

Frog Jumps

Start with your legs together and feet facing out, squat down allowing your knees to turn out and then explode up straightening the legs before returning to start. Ribbit.Ribbet.


Start in a slight squat, so your legs are loaded with power, then jump sideways to the left and land on your left leg, with your right leg lifted off the ground. Now jump leading with your right leg and land on the right leg, with your left leg away from the floor. Use your arms to propel you further, opposite arm to opposite leg.

Plank Up Downs

Start in a plank off your hands, keeping your bum down and shoulder blades squeezed together to ensure your spine stays in neutral alignment. Bring you right hand down to an elbow plank position and then follow it with the left, now bring the right arm back up to a hand plank and follow it with the left. Avoid looking up as it puts extra strain on the neck.

Shadow Boxing Sit Ups

Lie on you back with your knees bent ready for a sit up, but this time as you brace your abs and bring your upper body up, throw a jab and a cross, punching towards the opposite knee. This adds some extra oblique engagement and makes the exercise a little bit more of a challenge. Breathe out as you lift up and punch.

Now repeat!

What are the benefits of HIIT?

As well as the obvious benefits of keeping you busy during your lunch break and generally more active, HIIT also boasts these benefits:

  • Training anaerobically increases your VO2 max.
  •  HIIT is anabolic, meaning you lose weight from fat and not muscle.
  •  HIIT increases Human Growth Hormone by up to 450% during the first 24 hours after your workout, which repairs damaged tissue and helps build muscle and burn fat.
  • Evidence suggests HIIT can actually help suppress your appetite. Research in The International Journal of Obesity found those who participated in HIIT style exercise consumed on average 200 calories less and had lower levels of ghrelin which is your hunger hormone.

So next time your lunch hour strikes, why not grab your colleagues and challenge them to this anytime, anyplace workout. Don’t forget to pack your deodorant!

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