High intensity interval training, or HIIT, is a method of aerobic exercise, and occasionally strength training, that is focused on intense periods of exercise and longer periods of rest than usual. For example, you would be running to almost your maximal capacity for a minute, and then resting for two minutes. This would then be continued for a period of 15 minutes (this is simply an example and, naturally, the length of exercises will vary according to your personal capabilities as the goal is not to expend all of your energy). HIIT exercises are normally not as long as regular exercises because of the high amount of energy you’re expending while “going all out”. It’s because of this that extended periods of recovery are required for your body to deal with the physiological adaptations that are occurring.
What Does Science Say?
If you want to improve your endurance performance, then HIIT training has long-since been recognised as an effective training method. A study described how HIIT training improved maximal oxygen uptake (VO2max) and thus improved performance as a whole. Coupled with creatine supplementation, results have shown that submaximal exercise performance is improved as well.
The training not only has benefits for endurance training, but for health reasons as well. As described here, HIIT training has benefits related to: “aerobic and anaerobic fitness, blood pressure, cardiovascular health, insulin sensitivity (which helps the exercising muscles more readily use glucose for fuel to make energy), cholesterol profiles, abdominal fat and body weight while maintaining muscle mass.” Thus, it is imperative that if you are exercising you should include a few sessions of HIIT a week to get the maximum benefit from your training.
It is no secret that exercising, in general, for about 30 minutes a day increases longevity and general health. We know this, and this is why the majority of us dedicate time to working out in the gym, attending spinning classes, and spending weekends trail running instead of day drinking. Exercise makes us feel good, and varying your training sessions allows the body to adapt in different ways, expanding your capabilities.
From a health perspective, a research study compiled 10 studies with 273 patients in a meta-analysis. Participants had coronary artery disease, heart failure, hypertension, metabolic syndrome and obesity. There was a significantly higher increase in the VO2peak after HIIT compared to moderate training. It concluded that HIIT significantly increases cardio respiratory function by almost double that of moderate training in patients with lifestyle-induced chronic diseases.
From a genetics perspective, we at DNAFit have created an algorithm that gives people a profile based on whether they receive more benefit from “power-based” training and “endurance-based” training, which is based on loads and volume of exercise. We recommend for HIIT training to people who tend to be more power-based due to the positive impact that intense physical exertion in short bouts has on their physical fitness. We also test genetic markers that can indicate your VO2max, which can further inform your decisions when it comes to training.
The Benefits of HIIT
We have looked at what HIIT is, and what science says, but now we’re going to step into actually doing HIIT and show you why it is easy-to-do and beneficial in the long-ter
Burns Fat Fast
The varying intensity of workouts puts your body’s recovery system into overdrive, while your body is still working at an intense rate if you’re going according to the 2:1 system of moderate exercise: high intensity exercise.
Increases Cardiovascular Health
As we’ve already learned, your capacity for endurance training will increase and with an increased VO2max and more blood pumping throughout your body, your heart is performing at an optimal rate. As a precaution, you should start slowly when first starting out and build towards true HIIT training that your body can manage.
You Can Do It Anywhere
Indoors, outdoors, at home, or even at work, you can make any environment challenging by exercising according to the principles of HIIT training. With an array of possible way to do it: running, cycling, aerobics, and more, if you stick to the method you’ll be able to do it wherever you are.
No Equipment Needed
HIIT training isn’t about lifting big weights, and doesn't require any machinery. Find an open space and get exercising
This is a hidden benefit. A study found that HIIT doubled the amount of fats burned at the same caloric expenditure.
You Won’t Lose Muscle
Many people will tell you that when it comes to wanting to lose weight, it comes with the caveat of losing muscle mass as well. The thing about HIIT training is that because you’re putting your body through intense exercise that can be considered as “powerful”, similar to sprinting and the like, you’ll be building lean muscle while tapping into your fat stores and burning those.