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Why All the Buzz About HIIT Workouts?

Fitness young woman on gym bike spinning indoor cardio exercise
Fitness young woman on gym bike spinning indoor cardio exercise

Are you still hitting the gym 5-6 days a week working on that old New Year's resolution?

Are you spending an hour or more on cardio equipment at the gym and still not getting the results you want?

To improve fitness the belief has always been to increase the volume of exercise to progress . . . more time on that elliptical machine. It starts to feel like a waste of time.Everyone is trying to save time or make time in their busy schedules.

So how about a workout that gets better results in less time?

There is an easier and better way to get fit and lose weight that doesn't require hours at the gym. . . . I'm talking a 20-minute workout with maximum results.

It's still going to require effort, in fact maximum effort on your part. HIIT (high-intensity interval training) workouts are short rounds of high effort exercise followed by periods of recovery.

A 12 week HIIT study showed improvements in cardiorespiratory endurance to a degree that reduces risk of death from various types of heart disease and stroke. It was shown to be equal to or better than steady, prolonged cardio in the following areas:

  • Increased strength of the heart muscle
  • Better utilization of oxygen for energy production
  • Improved muscle strength
  • Decreased blood pressure and cholesterol
  • Improved insulin sensitivity
  • Improved lean muscle mass
  • Decreased body fat percentage

Perhaps the most talked about the effect of HIIT training is the metabolic adaptation. This is your bodies ability to burn fat for fuel during and after exercise.  HIIT was found to be more effective than continuous exercise in burning visceral fat (the fat around your stomach and organs) that leads to diabetes and heart disease.

During prolonged cardio your body produces hormones that tell your body not to burn anymore fat. This was helpful when we had to hunt and gather for our food. Besides, the calories the cardio machine says you are burning is likely higher than reality.

During HIIT, your body doesn't have time to make these adaptations.

In addition, after you stop exercising your body will continue to burn more calories as it works to recover from your maximum effort activity.  This makes HIIT the most effective work out plan when trying to lose weight. When incorporating HIIT into your workouts, it is important to chose the right level of intensity and frequency. 

Studies have found that just 3 sessions a week, provide the most benefit for participants who performed this training. It was also found that there was increased pleasure, enjoyment, and beneficial psychological affects.  This prescription of 3 sessions a week lasting 20 minutes each resulted in increased exercise adherence due to the decreased time commitment.

There should be a careful progression of activity when starting any exercise program. Beginning with HIIT after a prolonged immobility or sedentary lifestyle may increase chances for injury or muscle soreness. If this is you, start with a continuous aerobic exercise at low intensity levels.  Once you are able to sustain the activity (such as walking on the treadmill) for 30 minutes with moderate intensity, progress to interval training.

Next time you jump on the treadmill, give this HIIT workout a try:

  • 5 minute warm up at a comfortable walk or jog
  • Increase incline to 5% and a speed of 3mph
  • 1 minute increase speed to 5-6.5 mph
  • 1 minute back at 3mph (keeping 5% incline throughout)
  • Repeat 1 minute rest and 1 minute work for 6 rounds
  • If this is too much, you can do 1 minute work and 2 minutes rest
  • Cool down for 5-10 minutes at an easy jog or walk

When choosing an exercise regimen of running, biking, interval training, or weight lifting the most important thing is that you choose an exercise you enjoy and are likely to stick with.  Regular physical activity will always provide more health benefits than sporadic bouts.

Staying active will pay off!  Those who are physically active tend to live longer, healthier lives, with improved quality of life.  If you need help getting started, or screened for injury prevention, click HERE to contact one of our Movement Specialists TODAY!