Have you heard of HIIT exercise and wondered if you should be doing it or even what it is? HIIT stands for High Interval Intensity Training. It basically consists of short bursts of high intensity cardio training divided by periods of rest (or lower intensity). The benefits of HIIT range from improved metabolism to time saving benefits.
HIIT can be effective in burning more fat in less time while maintaining muscle mass.
Muscle burns more calories than fat, making it very important that you maintain your muscle mass for more effective metabolism. If you combine your HIIT with an effective strength training regimen, you will maintain muscle mass while you burn fat! 😉
You can do an effective HIIT workout in as little as 20 minutes.
No need to spend hours on the treadmill to get results. While steady state cardio still has it’s time and place, HIIT workouts are highly effective in a short amount of time. Though HIIT can last longer, you can easily get good calorie burn in only 20 minutes. As an avid proponent of exercise with limited time, this benefit of HIIT is one of my favorites.
HIIT continues to boost your metabolism even AFTER the workout.
Okay, even better than calorie burn during the workout (which I honestly hardly pay attention to) is boosting your metabolism. HIIT induces excess post exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC), which means you’ll be burning more calories for hours after you exercise!
HIIT improves insulin sensitivity.
Like other types of exercise, the benefits of HIIT include an array of physiological effects. One of the main benefits of exercise is improved insulin sensitivity. Insulin resistance occurs when the body does not respond to insulin as it should. This causes a build up of glucose in the blood. Insulin resistance is linked to obesity and Type 2 Diabetes, which are both growing issues in the Western world, especially the US. Improved insulin sensitivity simply means the body’s cells are able to do their job and bring the glucose into the cells. This study published in the Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise journal actually found a 35% improvement in insulin sensitivity following HIIT. And this study conducted at Iowa State found that the benefits of insulin sensitivity can last for as long as 48 hours following a single HIIT session.
HIIT is for all fitness levels.
The workouts can be composed of walking, cycling, or even composed of a variety of calisthenics (bodyweight exercises). You can also customize the workout by changing duration of high intensity and rest intervals. For example, you can sprint for 60 seconds with 90 seconds of walking between each sprint, or flip that and do 90 second sprints with 60 seconds of rest. Since the workouts are easily customizable they can be created for all fitness levels.
How should I begin adding HIIT to my workouts?
You can start by adding 1 HIIT workout per week of approximately 15-20 minutes. For example, you can start with only 15 minutes using 30 second intervals. Spend the first 30 seconds running and the next 30 walking, repeat for the entire 15 minutes. You can shake things up a bit as you get more comfortable in your training. For example, you can increase your time at the high interval pace, increase the intensity of the intervals, or both. You could do this outside with a interval timing app on your phone, on the treadmill, or with cycling, rowing, or elliptical machines.
This study published in The Journal of Physiology even shows that you can even reap the benefits of HIIT from low volume activities such as walking. Alternating between a fast paced and slower paced walk and HIIT can truly be for everyone!
For more information on the benefits of HIIT as well as how to start, check out this informative brochure from the ACSM.
Of course prior to starting any exercise including HIIT as described here you should seek medical clearance from your doctor. Not all exercise is suitable to everyone and some exercise may result in injury. For tailored advise you should seek an individual personal trainer and follow with your physician. The information in this blog is not intended to be used to diagnose, treat, or cure any illness.