High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) is a modern type of exercise that has become increasingly popular for people wanting to get fit and for those wanting to lose weight. While the term HIIT covers a range of different exercises, all exercises are high intensity, and all are undertaken in intervals. If you have been sitting on the fence when it comes to HIIT workouts, or want to find out more information, then this article is for you. Below you will find out what HIIT workouts are, why they work and how you can tailor a specific workout to your particular needs.
What are High Intensity Interval Training Workouts
A HIIT workout involves undertaking short sessions of a high intensity anaerobic exercise, and then following this with a less intensive recovery period. An example may be doing a short one minute burst of very fast star jumps, followed by thirty seconds of jogging slowly on the spot. While sessions and activities change depending on what you want to achieve from your session (for example you may want to improve your cardio health or you may want to lose weight), the sessions are generally relatively short and last somewhere in the vicinity of 10 to 20 minutes. Most modern sessions try to at least go for 15 minutes, as research indicates you need to exercise for at least 15 minutes to start seeing results.
The HIIT session itself includes a warm up period, then at least six intervals of a high intensity activity with a recovery period in between the activity. In longer sessions, medium intensity activities follow the high intensity activities. The session always ends with a cool down of around five minutes.
The rule for most HIIT sessions is that the recovery in between the high intensity exercise is approximately half the time of the activity. This helps to keep heart rates up and ensures your body isn’t starting to cool down, while at the same time letting your body recover.
Why Does High Intensity Interval Training Work?
Over the past decade there have been a variety of studies undertaken into the effectiveness of HIIT workouts. The benefits are generally put into two categories: Aerobic Benefits and Metabolism Benefits. Both of these are discussed below; however it is first important to look at why such programs are effective.
The effectiveness of HIIT comes down to its high intensity component. The high intensity component pushes your body to your limit at short intervals and encourages your body to burn more fuel, and increase your stamina. In other words, rather than telling your body you need to store fat, as with long cardio work outs, you are telling your body that you need to burn fat quickly. For an endurance athlete, it is also telling your body you need to build more speed – something that a lot of endurance athletes lose with their training. While there is a lot more to it than this, this training of the body to use more energy and to increase speed and stamina is what makes HIIT programs effective.
The specific benefits for aerobic performance and metabolism follow:
- Aerobic benefits: A variety of studies have shown that HIIT programs help to increase the overall speed and stamina of even seasoned athletes. One studied showed that in as little as seven HIIT sessions, an overall improvement in performance of around two percent can be seen.
- Metabolism benefits: As with the aerobic benefits a large number of studies have been undertaken on the metabolism benefits for HIIT work outs. Up until about 10 years ago, it was thought that long aerobic sessions were the most effective sessions for losing weight. However, workouts such as HIIT have shown that this isn’t the case. In fact, doing just three 15 minute sessions a week, is likely to help you lose more weight than undertaking four 45 minute jogging sessions. While there are a variety of reasons for this, the main ones are:
- An overall decrease in insulin levels.
- The development of a higher metabolic rate which results in more weight loss even at rest.
What High Intensity Interval Training Workout is best for you?
This really depends on what you want to get out of your HIIT workout. If you want to improve your athletic ability then the workout will need to be tailored differently to if you wanted to lose weight. Either way, you need the HIIT session to be developed for you by a competent professional, who has a strong understanding of such workouts and what will work for you.
Generally the high intensity exercises of a HIIT workout can include the following:
- Side lunges
- High knees
- Butt Kicks
- Arm Circles
- Touching Toes
- Trunk Twists
As with most forms of exercise, it is essential that you consult with your Doctor first before going down the path of starting the workout. HIIT workouts are high intensity and as such may not be suitable if you have a particular health or heart problems. In these instances your Doctor may recommend a hybrid form of the program where you keep your heart rate slightly lower. In addition, if you are just starting out exercising you may want to start with lower impact and easier sessions until you build up to a high intensity session.
In summary HIIT workouts are one of the most effective workouts around. Whether you are wanting to improve your aerobic performance and endurance or lose weight, a HIIT workout will help you to achieve your goal. In addition, HIIT workouts are also very time effective and can easily be done in a lunch break, or before or after work. The workout delivers the benefit of a long cardio session without putting in the long hours on the treadmill or the running track. While there are many benefits, it is important to remember that they are high intensity and as such, a Doctor should be consulted before commencing on a workout. Here’s to your fitness success.