I tried… HIIPA

By Cat Rodie

I tried… HIIPA
The craze for HIIPA has health & exercise professionals talking – but can this trend towards incidental exercise ever be as good as a dedicated work-out? Our columnist Cat Rodie gives it a go to find out.

I’m trying to establish a new habit. I call it the Supermarket Sweat. It’s a bit like the ’90s TV show, Supermarket Sweep (where the contestants rushed madly around the store hurling food items into their trolleys). However, rather than aiming for a prize with my frenzied dash, my goal is simply to get my heart rate up.

Why I am doing this, you may ask? I’ve been experimenting with HIIPA.

HIIPA (which stands for High-Intensity Incidental Physical Activity) is a short bust of incidental exercise. It could be washing the car, lugging groceries to the kitchen, or running around the park with your children. It is enough physical activity to get your heart rate up, but not so much that you need to change into your activewear.

New research, published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, suggests that just five to 10 minutes of HIIPA a day could produce significant health benefits. Emmanuel Stamatakis, Professor of Physical Activity, Lifestyle and Population Health at the University of Sydney, says HIIPA works in much the same way as HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) – which is becoming a popular style of exercise.

“There is a lot of research now telling us that any type of HIIT – irrespective of the duration and the number of repetitions – is one of the most effective ways to rapidly improve fitness and cardiovascular health. And HIIPA works the same way,” Professor Stamatakis writes.

Professor Stamatakis adds that the beauty of HIIPA is that it’s realistic and achievable for most people, as it uses activities we’re already doing as part of our everyday lives.

HIIPA really appeals to me, hence my enthusiasm for racing around the supermarket as fast as possible. I enjoy running and swimming, and get to the gym a few times a week… but when I am busy, exercise is the first thing to go from my schedule. Perhaps capitalising on incidental activity will help.

Chris Wilde is a personal trainer at Vision in Takapuna, NZ. He tells me that anything that encourages people to be more active in their day-to-day lives is a positive. “We all have lots of opportunities to perform functional movement such as lifting, carrying and climbing,” he explains.

“Climbing stairs, vigorous cleaning, playing with your kids, carrying groceries. Incidental exercise is always helpful. Being more active is beneficial to cardio-respiratory and musculoskeletal health, weight management,and the general off-setting of disease.”

Wilde notes that he encourages his clients to incorporate incidental exercise into their day. Still, he adds that – in his view, at least – HIIPA can’t replace structured exercise.

Dr Joann Lukins, a sports psychologist, echoes this when she says that walking up one flight of stairs a day isn’t going to be enough to meet the World Health Organisation’s physical activity guidelines of at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise a week.

Maybe she’s right. In my efforts to give HIIPA a try I have been running around the shops, dancing with my kids, using the stairs instead of the lift at every opportunity, and lugging big pot plants across my backyard. It’s enough to feel active, but I’m missing the post-exercise endorphins I get from more structured exercise.

Nonetheless, on days when HIIPA is the only option, it’s better than not moving at all. Or, as Dr Lukins puts it, “Some is better than none!”


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