What Is HIIT And Why Should I Do It?

Many people wish there was more time in the day to do everything they want to. The demands of modern life make it challenging to be efficient with our time. It is challenging to find time to work out amidst our busy schedules. Luckily, efficient workouts don’t have to be long in order to be effective!

You may have seen or heard the term “HIIT Training” being thrown around in fitness circles. In fact, fitness professionals voted HIIT as one of the top fitness trends for 2020 in a survey by the American College of Sports Medicine. HIIT training has quickly grown in popularity, and seems to be popping up in fitness studios everywhere.

HIIT promises to provide the best workout in the least amount of time. But what exactly is HIIT?

What is HIIT?

HIIT stands for “high-intensity interval training.” It combines quick bursts of high-intensity exercise followed by a period of rest of lower-intensity exercise. HIIT alternates 1-5 minute intervals of intense workout with 1-5 minutes of rest or less intense exercise. To get the best out of HIIT, get your heart rate to at least 80% of its maximum capacity during the high-intensity interval.  You can use a heart rate monitor of Fitbit (or equivalent) to check your heart rate to see if you’re reaching 80 percent.

It may seem counterintuitive that a workout that requires so much rest can actually be effective. However, allowing your body to rest between intervals pushes your body across two opposite ends–between bursts of highest intensity and bursts of rest. This allows your body to perform at its very best during the high-intensity intervals and builds up your cardiovascular strength. This is what differentiates HIIT from your regular continuous types of exercise (ie. jogging or yoga)–those intervals of heart-pounding intensity.

Benefits of HIIT Training

Improved Heart Health

The most well-established benefit of HIIT is improved heart health. Interval training can boost cardio-respiratory health with a shorter time investment than continuous forms of exercise. HIIT is known to improve one’s VO2 max, also known as maximal oxygen uptake. VO2 max is the measurement of the maximum volume of oxygen one’s body can use during intense exercise.

“Scientists have found that [VO2 max] is one of the best predictors of overall health,” according to Martin Gibala, Professor of Kinesiology at McMaster University in Canada and one of the world’s leading interval training experts. “The more aerobically fit you are, the better your heart can pump blood, the longer it takes you to get out of breath, and the farther and faster you’re able to bike or run or swim.” And that, in turn, can help prevent heart disease.

Supporting research confirms that interval routines lead to greater gains in VO2 max compared to other forms of training in a shorter period of time. Additionally, the more effort you put into a HIIT workout, the greater heart benefits you reap. This 2013 study concluded that less intense training programs involving shorter intervals resulted in the least health benefits. Interval training with longer intervals (3-5 minutes) reported the greatest increases.

Burn More Calories And Get Healthier

Interval training is a highly efficient way to burn calories. Research repeatedly shows that a 20-minute HIIT routine can burn the same amount of calories as a continuous 50-minute routine. Higher-intensity exercise during these intervals results in a greater disturbance of the body’s homeostasis, requiring more energy and oxygen to return to normal base levels.

When it comes to overall fat loss, HIIT workouts and moderate continuous training workouts perform at about the same level. But HIIT can be helpful in targeting a specific type of fat. Visceral fat is the body fat you carry around your organs. Reducing this fat helps keep your body in a healthy state. A study from the University of New South Wales showed that participants who did three 20-minute HIIT sessions per week for 12 weeks not only lost about 3.3 pounds, but also reduced their visceral fat levels by 17%.

Burn Calories After Your Workout

Not only do you burn more calories during a HIIT workout than a continuous workout, but your body continues to burn calories afterwards. This is because the exertion from the high-intensity intervals kicks your body’s repair cycle inter hyperdrive. This is called EPOC (Excess Post-Exercise Oxygen Consumption), and can result in up to 200 more calories burned for 24 hours after. For a little perspective, it would require about 30 minutes of average-intensity exercise to burn 200 calories. Burning that many additional calories while simply lounging on your couch post-workout is a huge perk!

You Will Save Time

HIIT workouts are a very time-efficient way to get the benefits typically associated with longer bouts of traditional cardio exercise. Research shows that you achieve better progress in 15 minutes of interval training (three times a week) than jogging for an hour. The American College of Sports Medicine conducted a study that revealed that two weeks of HIIT improves aerobic capacity just as much as 6-8 weeks of endurance training.

HIIT exercises don’t take long at all, so they are the ideal workout for people with busy schedules. The New York Times developed a popular 7-minute workout. A full-on Tabata HIIT workout can be done in four minutes!

So if you’ve been struggling to find time to exercise, this is ideal for you! You can squeeze in a four minute workout during your lunch break and still have time to enjoy your lunch.

How Often Should You Do HIIT Workouts?

Since it takes more time to recover from these higher-intensity workouts, it is recommended to do a HIIT workout 1-3 times per week. However, if you already have other types of training incorporated into your workout routine, you may only want to add 1-2 HIIT sessions per week. Your body may not recover properly if you are overdoing it.

If you’re not sure how many HIIT training sessions are right for you, or if you want to know if other types of training are better to help you meet your fitness goals, Just You Fitness can help! Find a location near you and speak to a certified trainer today. Everyone’s body is different and everybody’s goals are different. What works for your friend may not work for you. A personal trainer can help you determine the best course of action to help you achieve your goals.