HIIT is all the rage now days. According to a survey conducted by American College of Sports Medicine (ACSCM), HIIT is one of the top fitness trends for this year.
What is HIIT? It is an acronym for High Intensity Interval Training. It is an interval workout style with alternating periods of short, intense, anaerobic exercise with less intense recovery periods. HIIT is considered a form of cardiovascular exercise. Usually HIIT workouts are shorter than the typical one-hour fitness classes offered at most gyms or the 30 – 45 minute cardio work you might do on your own. These short, intense interval workouts can provide improved athletic performance, improved glucose metabolism, and improved fat burning.
Most endurance or cardio workouts, such as walking, running, elliptical work, or stair-climbing are done at a moderate intensity (exertion level of 5-6 on a scale of 0-10) for 30 to 60 minutes whereas the high intensity interval workouts are done at an exertion level of 7, 8, or even 9. These intervals are usually sustained for 30 seconds to 3 minutes, although they can be as short as 8-10 seconds (Tabata Workout) or as long as 5 minutes. The higher the intensity, the shorter the interval. Recovery intervals are usually equal to or longer than the high intensity intervals.
Besides shortening your workout time if you have limited time, the payoffs of pushing yourself with HIIT include increased aerobic and anaerobic fitness, decreased fasting insulin, increased insulin sensitivity, and reduced abdominal and subcutaneous fat (i.e. lower percent body fat).
Higher intensity exercise of any kind may result in a higher risk of musculoskeletal injury and cardiac events. HIIT has been studied on people with heart disease and congestive heart failure as well as healthy people. With clinical supervision during these studies, most all were able to tolerate high-intensity intervals, and they experienced more improvement in cardiovascular function than other subjects undergoing continuous moderate intensity training. If you are considering HIIT and have any health conditions, check with your physician before starting it.
To begin an HIIT workout on your own, choose any aerobic exercise (biking, elliptical, treadmill, etc.). Warm up for 3 to 5 minutes, then do alternating speed and recovery intervals (3-4 of each). End with a cool down. Experiment with shorter and longer speed and recovery intervals to find what works best for you. Gradually work up to 8-10 or more speed (high intensity) intervals.
Keep in mind that the biggest mistake is making the recovery intervals too short. To reduce your risk of injury, perform HIIT workouts once or twice a week. That doesn’t mean taking all the other days off. Switch up your workouts to ensure your muscles continue to be challenged. Having varied workouts will help keep you from overtaxing any one area of your body. I recommend you include resistance exercise, stretching, and core work on days that you are not doing High Intensity Interval Training.
For best results, work with a certified fitness professional to create a personalized HIIT workout for you.
By: Janet Hunt
Janet Hunt is a Certified Personal Trainer and can be reached at 256-614-3530 to schedule an appointment.