What is High Intensity Interval Training- HIIT?
HIIT or high intensity interval training is a combination of brief, very-high intensity bursts of cardio exercise followed by equal or longer periods of rest. Think 30 seconds to a minute of sprinting, followed by a minute or two of walking or slow jogging. Repeat this cycle for just 10 minutes, and you’ll complete a HIIT workout.
Todd Astorino, a professor of kinesiology at California State University, San Marcos, who has published more than a dozen papers on HIIT says that “We now have more than 10 years of data showing HIIT yields pretty much the exact same health and fitness benefits as long-term aerobic exercise, and in some groups or populations, it works better than traditional aerobic exercise”.
Whether your goal is to improve your fitness, lower your risk for cardiovascular disease, lose weight, strengthen skeletal muscles or help get your blood sugar under control, a few minutes of HIIT seem to be as effective as much longer periods of moderate-paced running, cycling, swimming or other forms of traditional cardio. For well-trained athletes, HIIT may be the best way to elevate your physical performance.
One small study of healthy but sedentary people found just one minute total of HIIT performed three days a week for six weeks was enough to significantly improve blood sugar scores and aerobic capacity, a measure of physical fitness. The study participants completed 10- to 20-second bouts of “all-out” cycling on a stationary bike, each broken up by a couple minutes of rest. The total workout time, start to finish, was 10 minutes.
Other research finds that HIIT may outperform traditional cardio when it comes to fat loss. A HIIT-induced surge in your body’s levels of growth hormones and other organic compounds “can increase fat burning and energy expenditure for hours after exercise,” says study author Stephen Boutcher, an associate professor of medical sciences at the University of New South Wales in Australia.
How HIIT works:
The key to HIIT is pushing your heart rate up above 80% of its maximum, Astorino says. “Subtract your age from 220 to estimate your maximum heart rate,” he says. (“A heart rate monitor can provide an accurate assessment. But if you’re really sucking wind after pushing yourself, you’ve probably hit your target”, Astorino says.)
If you’re fit, try sprint interval training. After walking or slow jogging for a few minutes to warm up, sprint as hard as you can for 30 seconds, then recover for four minutes by walking or jogging slowly. Complete four to six sets of this sprinting-recovery program. (“For an even faster version, keep the warmup, then complete three sets of 20-second sprints, each separated by two minutes of recovery”, Astorino says.)
If you’re overweight or obese and you haven’t exercised in months, sprinting isn’t necessary or safe. “Instead, 30 seconds to four minutes of brisk walking on an inclined treadmill or hill should be enough to push your heart rate up into the HIIT zone”, Astorino says.
You can also practice these programs with a stationary bike, rowing machine or in the pool. Any form of cardio can push your heart into the HIIT zone.
HIIT is safe. Wisløff and colleagues analyzed nearly 50,000 hours of HIIT data collected from cardiovascular disease patients in Norway. In seven years of data, he turned up just two instances of (non-fatal) cardiac arrest. He says people with unstable angina or serious heart issues should speak with their doctor first. But, in general, “it’s much more dangerous not to perform HIIT than to perform it,” he says.
Talk to your Physiotherapist about a high intensity interval training (HIIT) program for you. Call us at
information gathered is courtesy of time.com