If you follow the fitness industry, you’ve probably heard of the benefits of HIIT (or High Intensity Interval Training).
The short, yet powerful workouts are touted as the best way to improve your overall conditioning, burn fat and even balance hormones!
So, what is HIIT anyway?
HIIT workouts involve working at an intense effort level for a short period of time followed by short recovery periods.
Tabata workouts are one great example of an HIIT-style workout.
A Tabata session involves 20 seconds of intense all-out effort, followed by 10 seconds of recovery. This is repeated 8 times through for a workout total of 4 minutes only and is said to promote fat loss and increase aerobic power – all in a very short period of time.
Is HIIT really all it’s cracked up to be? And does it actually burn fat, or is that just a myth?
When it comes to the research, the answer is YES, it’s all it’s cracked up to be!
One study compared MICT (Moderate Intensity Continuous Training) vs. HIIT and the effects that it had on visceral abdominal fat. The study found that both types of training reduced overall body fat; however, HIIT did this in half the time. Half the time!!
Another study from the International Journal of Obesity compared two groups of exercisers to determine the benefits of HIIT for women.
The women were divided into two groups: the first group did 40 minutes of steady state aerobic exercise for 15 weeks. The second group did 8 second sprints followed by 12 seconds of recovery for 20 minutes. Exercising was performed 3x per week.
The results of the HIIT study?
HIIT participants lost up to 7.3 pounds, and the steady state exercisers gained up to 2.7 pounds. HIIT participants also saw significant reduction in overall body fat as well as subcutaneous abdominal fat (the fat right beneath your skin). Lean women lost less fat.
Other key benefits of HIIT:
- Reduces fasting insulin levels and decreases risk for Type 2 Diabetes and heart disease.
- It significantly improves your cardiovascular fitness. The International Journal of Obesity Study also found that HIIT participants improved their VO2 max (aerobic power) by up to 23%.
- It balances your hormones! Research shows that high intensity exercise boosts the Human Growth Hormone (HGH), which is a powerful anti-aging hormone that helps us maintain lean muscle mass (think revved up metabolism!) AND bone density, which reduces risk of osteoporosis.
- It’s easy to fit into a busy lifestyle since it doesn’t take a lot of time.
- HIIT is portable. You can get an effective HIIT workout using minimal or no equipment whatsoever, which makes it great for staying in shape while you’re on the road.
HIIT workouts do have a lot of benefits, and it has been documented that they only need to be done 2-3 times a week.
But, because they require such a high level of effort, they can put more strain on your joints, thus increasing your risk of injury if done too frequently.
Always remember to check with a qualified physician prior to making any significant fitness changes.
Included below is a sample HIIT workout. You can find others by doing some online research. You can also find modifications online as well, which may be useful if you have knee issues, for example.
1) Jump Squats (beginners can do a regular bodyweight squat without the jump)
2) Push-ups (beginners can start from their knees)
3) Jumping Jacks
4) Burpees or Murpees (modified burpees)
Beginners: Do 30 seconds of each exercise followed by 30 seconds of rest. If needed, modify the jump squat to a basic body weight squat (no jump). Push-ups can also be modified by performing from your knees rather than your toes.
Once you’ve completed all 4 exercises, rest for 1-2 minutes. Repeat for 2-3 sets total.
Intermediate: Do 40 seconds of each exercise followed by 20 seconds of rest. Once you’ve completed all 4 exercises, rest for 1 minute to 90 seconds. Then repeat for 3 sets total.
Advanced: Do 50 seconds of each exercise followed by 10 seconds of rest. Once you’ve completed all 4 exercises, rest for 1 minute, and repeat for 3 sets total.
For Walkers: This is a great place to get started. (You should be able to walk for approximately 30 minutes at a steady pace.)
My suggestion is to begin with a warmup, where you are walking comfortably for about 3-5 minutes. Follow this with:
3 minutes of purposeful walking – walking at a brisk pace, where talking is easy but your breathing rate is elevated.
1 minute of walking all out – as fast as possible for you. Your breathing should be exceedingly labored and talking becomes difficult.
1 minute of recovery, where you’re back to walking comfortably and busy catching your breath.
Repeat for about 5 reps and then follow up with 2-3 minutes of walking at a comfortable pace in order to cool down.
As your fitness level increases, you can vary the timing by increasing the time you walk full out and decreasing the time you spend walking purposefully. Use online resources to help you find what works for you.
So now tell me, do you do HIIT exercise? How do you like it? If you’re not doing HIIT, do you think this might be something you’d try? If not, why not? Please be sure to respond below. We all benefit when you share your experiences. And as always, we’d love to hear from you!