I have been asked a lot of questions recently about HIIT workouts. While it’s not for everyone, I do believe it definitely has a place in the fitness world.
Let’s face it; we live in a fast paced world where time is of the essence. Sometimes there just aren’t enough hours in the day to fit in a one hour exercise class or intense workout at the gym. That’s just one of the many reasons why High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) is increasing in popularity. This is also why I strongly believe it can save you precious time. Research demonstrates that when done safely and effectively, this quick and efficient workout holds just as many health benefits as any longer duration workout routine. In some cases the benefit is more.
High Intensity Interval Training consists of short bouts of vigorous exercise (85%-90% heart rate) ranging from 20 seconds to one minute. It is followed by active rest. Workouts range from 4 minutes to 20 minutes in length making this exercise one of the best time sensitive exercise choices.
Here is what a HIIT workout can do for you and how to incorporate it into your workout routine successfully:
Benefits of HIIT Workouts:
- Increases Metabolism up to 24hrs after exercise: After exercise it might appear that you recover within a few minutes and then move on with your day. Yet internally your body’s physiological systems take longer to recuperate. The energy you use to exercise (known as ATP), your body temperature and your muscles must recover and be returned to a balanced state known as homeostasis. In order for your body to do this it requires an increase in oxygen, not only to replace the oxygen debt created during exercise, but also to repair the body. This increased oxygen consumption after exercise is known EPOC (Excess Post Exercise Oxygen Consumption).
Your metabolism increases in order to allow for more oxygen consumption. HIIT workouts, while short in duration, creates a high oxygen deficit because your body can’t keep up with HIIT’s high intensity demands. This allows for maximal Excess Post Exercise Oxygen Consumption. Some studies show an increase of calorie burn using HIIT can last as long as 24 hours after exercise.
- Reduces your risk of type II Diabetes: HIIT is much more than a workout; it has the potential to reverse chronic disease and increase your overall health. Reducing your risk of Type II Diabetes is just one of the many health benefits of HIIT. During HIIT blood sugar in the body known as glucose must be rapidly absorbed to provide fuel for working muscles.
As you continue to do HIIT workouts over time your body becomes more efficient at absorbing glucose as it understands high intensity demands will be placed on the muscles. Your body becomes more efficient at regulating blood sugar and increases its insulin sensitivity. All which helps to prevent your risk of Type II Diabetes.
- Reduces Heart Disease: Two strong factors for heart disease include low levels of HDL or “good” cholesterol and high blood pressure. HDL gets rid of cholesterol by transporting it to the liver to be broken down for healthier uses or to be excreted by the body. This reduces plaque build-up in the arteries which might lead to blockages or heart attacks. Some studies show that after only a few months of exercising with the HIIT protocol, HDL levels improve and the transport mechanism that gets rid of cholesterol is heightened.
When it comes to high blood pressure, exercise has been recommended for years. The usual recommendation is 30 minutes of moderate physical activity. Yet more and more research shows shorter high intensity workouts are just as effective as 30 minutes of moderate physical activity in reducing blood pressure. With HIIT workouts accounting for less than half the time of a 30 minute moderate workout and with the exact same benefit, why not give it a try.
- Takes place anywhere: Many times heading to a gym just isn’t feasible. By the time you get your bag packed and drive to your local gym you’ve already spent at least an hour. Yet, with HIIT training, you can do it virtually anywhere. Your body becomes the moving force needed to increase your heart rate, making this an equipment free, body weight workout option. Simply start by running on the spot as fast as you can. That’s all it takes. And that can be done anywhere.
- Its time sensitive: Tabata training is one of the most popular forms of HIIT as it only takes 4 minutes to complete? Researcher Dr. Izumi Tabata discovered that 20 seconds of all out vigorous activity followed by 10 seconds of rest performed for 8 sets had long lasting health benefits similar to other HIIT workouts. If you can handle the intensity, then this quick and efficient workout is the perfect time saving fitness program for any busy day. After all, it only takes 4 minutes.
HIIT tips for beginners:
- Create a Solid Fitness Foundation: While HIIT is a great time saving way to get fit; it can also be dangerous if your body isn’t prepared for it. Begin HIIT only after successfully achieving a cardio base of 30 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity. These activities might include a 30 minute run, a one hour aerobics workout, or any exercises where you consistently feel breathless or where you can consistently stay in a heart rate zone of 70-85% for 30 minutes or longer without feeling the need to stop.
- Begin slowly: While introducing a new style of fitness decreases boredom and keeps the body guessing, doing too much too soon can cause injury and excessive fatigue. Begin slowly with 4 or 5 intervals of 30 seconds of vigorous activity followed by 1 minute of rest. This allows a longer recuperation time. Always ask yourself how you feel. If you feel dizzy or have chest pain stop immediately.
- Keep it simple: Choose a simple movement such as jumping /running on the spot or riding a stationary bike. As your speed increases during HIIT your form might suffer so trying new or complicated movements will put you at a higher risk for injury. By choosing simple and easy to follow movements you’ll greatly reduce your risk of injury.
- Increase your warm up and cool down time to 10 minutes: Longer warm ups ensure your body is fully ready to receive this new form of fitness. They increase body temperature gradually and facilitate the neurological/mind to muscle connection which prepare you for fast paced movement. Longer cool downs reduce the possibility of sore stiff muscles the next day caused by HIIT.
A Beginner HIIT Workout:
You know at some point you’ll sit down on the couch and watch t.v. GREAT! this is a perfect time to get your HIIT in. Commercials (or adverts as my Scottish husband says) account for approximately 16 minutes of a 1 hour television show. Just enough time to do your HIIT training.
-Run in place as fast as you can for 30 seconds
-walk slowly for 30 seconds
– Repeat 4-5 times
Don’t forget to warm up for 10 minutes and cool down for 10 minutes. It’s seriously that simple.