Want to stay in shape, but don’t have time? Bored with your usual routine? Shake it up with some high intensity intervals and get more results for less time in the gym. Sound too good to be true?
Recent research has shown that you can get many of the same physiological effects from high intensity interval training (HIIT) as you can from more time-consuming, moderate endurance workouts. These effects include fat loss, improved muscle cell function, increased oxygen consumption and improved anaerobic capacity–all for a fraction of the time spent.
What is HIIT?
High intensity interval training is any activity that alternates short bursts of maximal activity with brief periods of low to moderate intensity exercise. For example, a brief interval of fast running followed by an interval of walking, or brief interval of fast cycling alternated with an interval of slower cycling at a recovery pace. The aim is to push yourself beyond upper end of your aerobic zone, which trains both your aerobic and your anaerobic energy systems. On a scale of 1-10 of perceived exertion, high intensity can be considered anything over an effort level of 7.
What are the benefits of HIIT?
Burns more fat. The effect of the brief, intense exertion causes a significant afterburn. That means that your body will continue to burn more calories in the hours following your high intensity workout.
Doesn’t require equipment. HIIT doesn’t require any special equipment. Just put on your running shoes. Even simpler, you can do any plyometric exercise like jumping lunges or jumping jacks.
Saves time. For example, one study showed that 20 minutes of HIIT three times a week was found to be comparable to multiple, hour-long sessions of moderate endurance exercise, even though the HIIT workouts involved about 90% less exercise time. In both cases, exercise performance was increased. (Little, 2010)
How to do HIIT
Baseline fitness. You should already be fit and able to exercise up to 30 minutes at 70-85% of your estimated maximum heart rate without being exhausted. HIIT is not for beginning exercisers, people with cardiovascular disease, or other risk factors. If you are over 45, have hypertension, heart disease, or metabolic disease, consult with your doctor before attempting HIIT.
Warm up first. Always warm up your muscles for 5-10 minutes before doing HIIT. Intervals of high intensity can be varied according to your specific needs. You may wish to begin with short intervals of 20-30 seconds, followed by 1-2 minutes of recovery. Repeat 2-4 times. Over time you can increase the number of repetitions, and increase the duration of the high-intensity intervals. Always finish with a 5-10 minute cool down.
Be safe. If you experience any chest pain or breathing difficulty during your HIIT workout, cool down immediately.
If you want to maintain your fitness with less time invested, or if you just want to try something new, give high-intensity intervals a try. HIIT is hard work, but can be worth it!
The experts at GAIN labs are working on some HIIT based cardio routines. Stay tuned and keep fit!
Guest Post by Adrian Dunn, American College of Sports Medicine Certified Personal Trainer, Wellness Coach, and Fitness Coach for EverydayHealth.com and its Calorie Counter.
Little, J., Safdar A., Wilkin G., Tarnopolsky M., and Gibala M. (2010). A practical model of low-volume high-intensity interval training induces mitochondrial biogenesis in human skeletal muscle: potential mechanisms.