What is HIIT and why you should be doing it.
As we’ve settled into the new year, you may have noticed the sudden rush of people at the gym has started to dwindle. You may even be finding it harder to stay motivated now that the hype of New Year’s resolutions has passed. Since getting more exercise is one of the most common New Year’s resolutions, it’s worth learning more about high-intensity interval training (HIIT) and why you should be incorporating it into your exercise routine. It can help you lose weight, improve cardiovascular health, and can be done in less time than lower intensity exercises.
What exactly is HIIT?
High-intensity interval training is intense, unsustainable bursts of exercise that’s done in short intervals combined with less intense exercise. The work interval is aimed to get your heart rate around 80% to 90% of its max rate, while the rest interval should be more comfortable with a heart rate goal of 40% to 50% of your max. An example of this is sprinting paired with a light jog. Pair an all-out sprint for 30 seconds with three minutes of a light rest jog. The workout would include several repetitions of this work-rest cycle. CrossFit and P90X are both popular examples of HIIT.
The benefits of HIIT
While HIIT has been around for a while now, it’s popularity has quickly grown over the past several years. So, what exactly is the all the hype about?
Here are some reasons why you should be doing high-intensity interval training:
- It’s easy to do, but not in the way you might be thinking. You still have to work, sweat, and push yourself. HIIT is easy to do because there are so many ways of doing it. HIIT doesn’t require any specific piece of equipment, you can do it almost anywhere, and it’s normally done in a shorter amount of time compared to lower intensity forms exercise. In fact, when it comes to duration, it takes less time to get the same benefits of other types of exercise (we’ll go into more detail on this later). HIIT can be easily added to existing workout routines. For the runners who jog weekly, incorporating HIIT like sprints to their existing route could be done very easily. Bodyweight exercises can be done at home and by varying the intensity can be even more effective. Gyms provide a wide range of equipment that can be incorporated into your routine. Simply put, HIIT can be easily added to just about any workout routine. Consider how your current (or future) routine is set up to find the best HIIT options for you.
- HIIT is great for burning fat. In fact, it’s been shown that HIIT is more effective at burning fat than steady-state exercise. This is due to several reasons. When your body works harder, it requires more fuel in the same way that a car needs more fuel to accelerate quickly. Adenosine triphosphate (ATP) is what your muscles need for energy. The more intense the exercise, the more work your body must do to produce ATP leading to more calories being burned. Another reason HIIT is great for burning fat is that of excess post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC). Also known as the afterburn effect, EPOC is the process of your body naturally cooling down after vigorous exercise. This process burns calories, which means you’re consuming energy both during and after your workout. Since EPOC is influenced more by the intensity than the duration of a workout, HIIT is a great way to get in shape. A recent study published in the Journal of Diabetes Research compared the reduction of stomach fat in female subjects doing HIIT compared to those doing moderate-intensity continuous training. Based on the results, the study authors argue that HIIT is better for fat-loss due to its higher efficiency.
- Incorporating HIIT into your workout routine is a great way to keep it interesting. Doing the same routine over and over again can eventually lead to boredom. When this happens, it can be harder to find the motivation to push yourself or even stick with the program. Changing your routine, even slightly, is a great way to stay motivated and enthusiastic with what you are doing. If you’re not already doing some form of HIIT, try adding it a few times a week for some welcomed variation. Don’t go overboard, though. Remember that one of the main benefits of HIIT is your body burning energy after the workout. Your recovery period is important and should always be considered. Stagger your HIIT days for maximum results.
Now that you know more about HIIT, it’s time to start adding it to your workout routine. Set reasonable goals and experiment with different exercises to find the one that fits you the best. HIIT is challenging but rewarding. When it comes to efficient and invigorating forms of exercise, this one is hard to beat. Don’t forget that a good exercise routine is only part of living a healthier life and staying in shape. Diet and rest are crucial factors in the equation. For info on improving your diet, check out our Eat Healthier blog category.