There is no magic pill when it comes to losing weight or getting in shape. Fortunately, there’s something even better: It’s high intensity interval training (HIIT). No, this isn’t one of those workout trends that will be outdated next year. Nor is it a workout designed by some exercise “guru” who promises you that you’ll have “six pack abs” or the perfect butt.
HIIT is a training technique that increases your metabolism, is quick and convenient, and requires absolutely no equipment. So…. what exactly is it?
What is High Intensity Interval Training?
HIIT refers to a training technique where you alternate between intense all-out effort followed by recovery periods. The high-intensity intervals allow your body to reach its metabolic limits while low-intensity intervals help prevent injury (and make the workout much more pleasant!).
For example, after a 10 minute warm-up, an HIIT workout might be 2 minutes of fast running at 5K pace followed by 3 minutes of easy walking. Repeat 4 times.
Here’s the exciting part: the principles of HIIT don’t only apply to running. This is a training technique that you can translate to your favorite workouts. HIIT can be applied to swimming, jump rope, cycling, weight lifting, kettlebells, various cardio exercises and plyometrics.
The important part is that you alternate intervals of high intensity and low effort. You pick the timing of the intervals and the exercises that work for you. The principle sounds simple, yet the results are profound.
Here are some of the surprising benefits of HIIT:
#1 You Could Burn More Fat
What’s the first exercise that comes to mind when you think of burning fat? If you’re like most people, you probably answered, “Running!”
It’s true: there are many health benefits to running. It’s one of the best exercises for heart health and can reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease by as much as 45%.In fact, runners have an average lifespan that is 3 years longercompared to those that don’t run. But as great as running is, steady state cardio isn’t the most efficient way to burn fat.
A 15-week studyconducted by the International Journal of Obesity showed that HIIT participants lost as much as 7.3 pounds while participants in the steady-state group gained as much as 2.7 pounds!
Why is HIIT so efficient? Because when you go to 90%-100% effort level, your body has to work harder to fuel your muscles with energy. In other words, your body burns more calories faster.
#2 No Equipment Required
You don’t even need a track! You don’t have to go to the gym. Simply go outside and start running. Find some space in your home and do rounds of push ups, squats, lunges and jumping jacks. In fact, if you already workout, you can use your favorite exercises into a HIIT workout. Nothing fundamentally changes except for strategic pacing/interval timing!
Of course, an HIIT workout canbe done at the gym if you want to perform HIIT on a stair climber, elliptical, or in the pool for example. In other words, the gym is optional and not required.
#3 Time Efficient
If you don’t have to drive to the gym, then you just saved yourself a trip with the tip above. But that’s not all — HIIT workouts don’t have to be as long as traditional steady state workouts to yield the same (or better) results!
According to the New York Times, just 10 minutes of HIIT can increase your cardiovascular endurance by 12 percent in as little as 6 weeks. Unless you’re absolutely addicted to running marathons, HIIT workouts are an excellent way to get your cardio in!
#4 More Exciting Workouts
There’s something about HIIT that can be invigorating. While long bouts of cardio on a machine can leave you feeling exhausted, out of breath, and worn out, HIIT workouts are a lightning bolt to your day.
HIIT is an excellent way to mix up your workouts and prevent burnout, boredom, or fatigue! You can do a variety of exercises in all kinds of combinations. You can also work at YOUR level of fitness, from beginner to advanced.
Do a quick search on YouTube for “HIIT” to see some of the awesome workouts that people have created.
#5 Metabolism Boost
Think about a car burning gasoline: which burns more fuel? A car on cruise control or a car constantly stopping and going in the city? Because the acceleration itself is what demands the fuel, the car in the city burns through more fuel than a car on cruise control on the interstate. The same is true with our bodies. High intensity levels near all-out effort demands a lot of energy, which results in more burned calories.
But HIIT also trigger something called excess post-exercise oxygen consumption(EPOC).More oxygen is needed to restore glucose stores and repair muscle fibers and tissues. The best part? As long as your body experiences EPOC (up to 24 hours after an HIIT workout), it also needs more fuel.
In other words, even while you’re resting after an HIIT workout, your body is experiencing increased metabolism. The very process of “recovery” demands energy. The harder the workout, the more beneficial the recovery period.
#6 Improved Heart Health
It’s important to remember that your heart is a muscle, too! In fact, it’s our most important muscle! Just like we can strengthen muscle groups such as our chest, back, arms, and legs, it’s also possible to strengthen your heart.
A study by the American Journal of Cardiovascular Diseasefound that women at risk for hypertension were able to decrease high blood pressure over a course of 16 weeks doing HIIT. Furthermore, subjects with stiff arteries noticed an improvement compared to those that performed continuous moderate exercise.
#7 Preserve Lean Muscle Mass
One of the favorite sayings of body builders is that, “Running is a gains goblin.”
While many people enjoy cardio for weight loss, there are others that are worried that cardio can burn through muscle fiber for fuel. In fact, Men’s Journal recently published an article called How Much Cardio Can I Do Without Losing Muscle?
A benefit of HIIT is that it incorporates both anaerobic (absence of free oxygen) and aerobic (available oxygen) phases. This means that the body will burn fat for fuel while preserving the lean muscle mass you’ve worked hard to achieve. Because steady-state cardio is catabolic in nature, it’s possible to lose both muscle and fat.
These are just some of the many benefits that HIIT workouts will provide. Short on time? Don’t enjoy long steady state cardio sessions on the treadmill? Worried about losing muscle mass? With high intensity interval training, you have no excuse. Now get out there and HIIT it!