Even though many people know that physical activity helps to improve the overall health, most of them simply can’t find time to work out.
If you fall into this category, HIIT (high-intensity interval training) might be the solution for you.
High-intensity interval training, also known as sprint interval training (SIT) or high-intensity intermittent exercise (HIIE), is a workout strategy alternating short periods of intense exercise with lower-intensity recovery periods.
HIIT workouts usually last less than half an hour or until you’re too tired to continue. The amount of time you spend exercising and recovering will depend on the activities you choose, as well as your fitness level.
HIIT training includes various activities like jump rope, biking, sprinting, etc. For instance, your HIIT training may consist of half a minute cycling at high speed and high resistance, followed by a couple of minutes slower cycling at lower resistance. This would be one rep of HIIT. A standard HIIT training usually involves four to six reps.
Intense workouts might sound a bit extreme, but HIIT does offer a number of benefits. Here are the top six.
1. Burn Fat but Keep the Muscles
During anaerobic exercises (i.e. non-oxygen conditions), the body produces lactic acid which, in turn, releases adrenaline, thus helping burn fat.
A study from 2017 found that both high-intensity interval training and standard endurance workout result in fat loss, even though the time commitment with HIIT is significantly reduced.
More importantly, HIIT helps reduce visceral fat, i.e. the body fat stored around several important internal organs like the intestines, pancreas, and liver, and often leads to heart disease and other conditions.
But probably the most important benefit of HIIT is that you get to keep your hard-earned muscles. Those who have been dieting know that it’s difficult to preserve muscle mass while losing weight. Studies have found that, unlike standard cardio exercises, HIIT allows you to burn fat without sacrificing your muscles. Speaking of muscles…
2. Build Muscles
Besides aiding weight loss, HIIT helps grow muscle mass. This increase in muscle mass happens primarily in the leg and trunk muscles, i.e. the muscles that are being most engaged during HIIT workouts.
However, it should be noted that more significant muscle mass increases occur in people who were less active prior to starting with the high-intensity interval training. In more active individuals, this increase is insignificant.
3. Prolonged Calorie Burn
High-intensity interval training results in more calories burned in less time compared to standard training.
One study found that HIIT burns up to 30% more calories than other physical activities like cycling, running, or weight training.
But the calorie burn doesn’t stop after the workout is finished. HIIT stimulates the production of HGH (the human growth hormone) by 450%, thus increasing the metabolic rate for 24 hours after the workout. This means that, in addition to helping burn calories even after you’re done training, HIIT also boosts the body’s repair cycle and helps slow down the process of ageing.
4. Healthy Heart and Reduced Blood Sugar
Let’s not forget about the health benefits of HIIT.
To start with, HIIT is great for your heart. High-intensity interval training helps reduce blood pressure and stabilize the heart rate, especially in overweight individuals with high blood pressure. HIIT increases the pressure on the blood vessels, thus increasing their elasticity. And if you’re worried about the safety, research has shown that people suffering from coronary diseases find HIIT easier to tolerate than moderate workouts.
High-intensity interval training can also lower glucose levels in diabetics. Research reveals that, in addition to reducing blood sugar levels, HIIT also improves insulin resistance more than standard training.
HIIT is definitely the most convenient form of training. Here’s why:
- HIIT is perfect for people with busy schedules – you can squeeze in a 15-minute high-intensity interval workout during lunchtime and still get better results than the guy jogging in the park for one hour.
- HIIT is time-efficient. You’ll get the same results 50% faster than with standard training sessions. A study from 2013 found that inactive men who did an hour of cycling 5 times a week got similar results to those who did sprint intervals for about 10 minutes, 3 times a week.
- HIIT can take many different forms – cycling, running, burpees, rowing, jumping rope, etc. You can perform it anytime, anywhere – at home, in the office, in the park, wherever you want. And the best part is that some of these forms can be done without using any equipment.
6. Serious Challenge
As the name suggests, be prepared to move at maximum intensity. HIIT is an ultra-challenging form of training that can’t be performed while reading a newspaper or talking to your friend. Since it is done in a short period of time, you must be 100% invested and give your best.
On the flip side, you’ll be resting for half the time during the training. But in HIIT, the rest periods are as good as the high-intensity exercise. If your reps last 30 seconds, then the rests should be twice as long, i.e. last for 60 seconds. This might sound like too long, but insufficient rest can cause the body to break down muscle tissue. By resting long enough, you allow the muscles to recover by restoring their glycogen and oxygen levels.
Another important benefit of HIIT is that you’ll see the results quickly. And even though you might be in pain, one thing is for sure – you’ll never be bored. HIIT is definitely more fun than steady-state, low-intensity workouts and, let’s face it – you’re more likely to stick to a workout you actually love.
Wrapping it All Up
HIIT is a very efficient form of exercise which helps burn more calories than standard low-intensity, steady workouts. In addition to burning calories, it also helps get rid of the unhealthy visceral fat without losing muscle mass.
High-intensity interval training also produces significant health benefits, including regulated blood pressure and heart rate, as well as improved insulin sensitivity and reduced blood sugar levels.
There are many ways to include high-intensity interval training into your workout routine. To determine which HIIT routine works best for you, experiment with different activities (jumping rope, cycling, running, etc.), as well as with different time spans of the workout and recovery periods.
For instance, you can combine 15 seconds of sprinting with a minute of walking or slow jogging. Or, set a stationary bike to high-intensity resistance and pedal as fast and as hard as you can for 45 to 60 seconds. Then, switch to low-intensity resistance and pedal slowly for an additional 60 seconds to recover.
These are just a couple of examples to get you started, but you can easily adjust the HIIT routine to your preferences and lifestyle.