Why High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) Works

If you’re looking to spice up your workout, high-intensity interval training (HIIT) may be just the ticket. The American College of Sports Medicine ranked HIIT the top fitness trend of 2014, but this workout’s supreme effectiveness makes it more than a trend.

Unlike exercise routines like Crossfit that involve a specific gym and a specific set of exercises, HIIT can be done with any cardio or strength-training movements. It’s more of a workout philosophy than a set of exercises, making it easy to incorporate into any lifestyle.

High-intensity interval training involves short bursts of intense activity, up to 95% of aerobic capacity, followed by a short period of rest. 

For most exercises, you might run or do cardio to an intensity level of say, five or six on a scale of ten. With HIIT, intensity would be seven for anywhere from 30 seconds to three minutes, although some people use intervals as short as eight seconds and as long as five minutes, according to the American Council on Exercise. Recovery then lasts for at least as long as the workout duration, or a little longer.

If you’re bored after five minutes on the elliptical or have trouble finding 30 minutes in a day to exercise, high-intensity interval training may be right for you. 

HIIT workouts generally take about 15 minutes, but you can alternate between a period of intense activity followed by moderate activity whenever it makes sense throughout your day. One type of HIIT takes just four minutes. Called Tabata, it involves running, biking, jumping rope, or doing any other cardio exercise for 20 seconds, as hard as possible. Then comes 10 seconds of rest. Repeat the intervals for four minutes and voila–the day’s workout is done! 

Physical benefits to HIIT include increased cardiovascular capability, metabolism, and fat-burning ability, including stubborn belly fat. Meanwhile intensity delivers these benefits in minutes instead of hours. According to research published in the American Journal of Human Biology, high-intensity exercise offers superior cardiovascular benefits to endurance training. Meanwhile, no equipment or special gym is necessary.

To incorporate HIIT into your lifestyle, simply increase the intensity of daily activities in short bursts, followed by a slower pace. If you ride your bike, ride really fast for one minute, followed by one minute of slow pedaling, and do that four times. Likewise, if you prefer running, run as fast as possible for one minute, and then walk at a comfortable pace for one or two minutes. Repeat four times.

Have you tried high-intensity interval training? 

Image by Sigurbjorg Johannesdottir via Flickr