High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT): Why You Need It in Your Life!
Updated: Nov 10, 2018
How many times have you looked at your alarm in the morning or at the clock on the way home from work and thought “Ugh…. I still have to work out…. but I just don’t have the time!” Yes, we have ALL been guilty of this! I was in the same boat as you. I thought that in order to get a beneficial workout in, I needed to dedicate an hour (or two!) to a run or the gym. Well that all changed 3 years ago when I discovered high-intensity interval training (aka HIIT). Now my cardio workouts are a maximum of 40 mins (with the average being between 25-30 mins) and produce similar (or even better!) results than a traditional cardiovascular workout.
What exactly is HIIT?
“HIIT can be described as ‘brief intervals of vigorous activity interspersed with periods of low activity or rest’, which induces a strong acute physiological response” (1). Typically, this type of workout can last anywhere from 15-40 minutes. But as I mentioned above, the average is around 25-30 minutes.
Examples of HIIT Workouts
>Run in place for 30 seconds with 1-minute high-intensity bursts of an exercise like squats, pushups, abdominal exercise, and burpees (if you are brave!). You complete these in “rounds” and the total duration of your workout depends on how many “rounds” you complete and the duration of your rest and high-intensity intervals.
>Ride a stationary bike and pedaling at high intensity for 30 seconds, then slowing the pace for 2-4 minutes. You continue this pattern anywhere from 20-35 minutes.
>Outside: Walk or lightly jog for 2 minutes, sprint as fast as you can for 30-45 seconds, then slow to a fast walk/light jog for 2-4 minutes. Continue this pattern for the desired duration of time.
>Inside on treadmill: Walk quickly at a 0% incline for 2 minutes, increase the incline for 1 minute and continue at a fast pace, then jog at the incline for 30 seconds. Repeat and continue the pattern for 30 minutes.
HIIT workout Resources
HIIT workout apps that myself, Erin, and our hubbies use are Beachbody on Demand and the 7-min app (check out this blog post about our favorite health and wellness apps followyourgutmdnp.wordpress.com/2018/07/02/our-favorite-health-wellness-apps/). Both of these resources give us guided options for HIIT exercises and are great to use on those days where we just want someone just to tell us what do rather than think up something on our own! Our favorite instructor has been, and will always be, Shaun T—the HIIT master trainer himself.
HIIT workouts do not need to be crazy, intense, screaming workouts. You can control the intensity of the workout based on your level of fitness, but the overall goal is to push to the maximum level that you are able to tolerate. We typically recommend that you aim to get to the point where you are breathless and not able to hold a full-conversation. When that happens, you know that you have hit your maximum level.
For example, last weekend I injured my foot so I was not able to workout at the same intensity as I normally would during my workouts. But I modified the moves and overall workout to a level that I was able to tolerate. I was able to gain maximum benefits due to intervals in the routine and still achieved that “breathless” maximum level.
Why should you incorporate HIIT into an exercise routine?
Type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, obesity, non-alcoholic fatty liver, and metabolic syndrome are just some of the chronic medical conditions that can be controlled with physical activity and dietary choices. HIIT has been proven to aid in correcting, and in some cases reversing, these chronic conditions and allowing people to improve their quality of life.
“Diabetes alone increases cardiovascular disease, but in the presence of the cardiometabolic risk factors of hypertension, dyslipidemia, adiposity and systemic inflammation, the risk of cardiovascular events (i.e., stroke, myocardial infarction) is significantly increased.” (2) HIIT can be additional tool used to intervene before any of these detrimental events occur.
Many clinical studies (3 , 4 , 5, 6) have shown multiple health benefits of HIIT over your traditional cardiovascular workout routine. It has strong efficacy in improving overall cardiovascular (how strong your heart is working) and respiratory function. It has even shown to be beneficial in older adults (7) by increasing overall fitness, improving heart function, and lowering insulin resistance.
Can HIIT help you lose fat and gain muscle? The short answer: YES.. with a BUT.
First, in regards to weight loss, clinical and meta-analysis studies have not shown much of a difference in results between HITT and moderate-intensity interval training (MIIT= about half of the intensity level).
“When compared with MICT, however, HIIT provides no additional benefit as an exercise therapy for weight loss. The ability of HIIT to induce reductions in body weight should therefore not be overstated in those with common metabolic diseases.” (8) There is a lot of conflicting evidence surrounding which style of training is superior. Overall, both lead to fat reduction with HIIT showing more of a reduction of fat around certain organs, including the liver (remember non-alcoholic fatty liver disease I mentioned above?).
The only advantage I could see HIIT having over MIIT is the fact that, while both produce similar weight loss results, you would be able to achieve those results in a shorter duration of time. In one study, they did conclude that “there were no significant differences between HIIT and MICT for any body composition measure, but HIIT required ~40% less training time commitment.” (9) The researchers suggested that HIIT might be more of a desirable exercise template to follow for weight loss programs as it might be more time-efficient for their clients.
In regards to muscle gain with HIIT, some clinical studies show (10, 11) that muscle gain occurs mostly to the lower extremities and trunk area—which, if you ask me, is NOT a bad thing! It must be noted that the studies listed above were only performed on men. That being said, women most definitely have potential to gain these results as well. Personally, I try to incorporate kettlebells into my HIIT routines in order to build muscle and lose fat. For example, instead of performing simple squats for an interval, I will take either a 10 or 15 pound kettlebell and perform kettlebell swings. Here is a YouTube video showing you how to perform a safe kettlebell swing. Another alternative interval is performing lunges while holding a 10 to 15 pound kettlebell in each hand. This adds weighted resistance without taking away from the cardiovascular effects of the exercise.
Lastly, HIIT can reduce oxidative stress. Oxidative stress, by definition, is a variation between free radicals and antioxidants in your body. It can induce inflammatory diseases, cause cardiovascular disease, and has been linked with Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. If that is not enough, it can also speed up the process of aging! Now do I have your attention ladies? Regular exercise, especially with a HIIT routine, has been shown to reduce levels of oxidative stress by elevating antioxidant levels, thus helping prevent chronic conditions and keep us looking young!
Should you start a HIIT routine?
Before starting any workout program, we suggest that you discuss it with your healthcare provider. Coming up with the best plan for YOU is ideal. Everyone does not have the same routine; yours may look completely different than your friend’s. For example, most of the time I perform push-ups on my knees versus on my feet. Why? Because I feel like I have better control and am able to complete them properly without injury while still achieving optimal results.
As far as an actual routine, refer back to the apps that I mentioned above to get an idea as to where to start. They give great guidance and are very easy to use. The Beachbody on Demand app is especially unique as it offers numerous workouts that vary in time, intensity level, and style. Personally, Erin and I go for anything by Shaun T with Insanity Max 30 and T25 being our favorites. The great thing about these routines is that they have one person performing a “modified” version, thus taking the guess work out of performing a move that you are unsure of.
Disclaimer: When you are exercising you should never get to point where you are not able to breathe or have chest pain. If this does occur you should stop and seek medical care to make sure there is not an underlying health condition causing these symptoms.
Overall, incorporating a HIIT routine into your workout schedule 3 times a week will have a positive effect on your mind, body, and soul. You will feel like a badass after it’s done and only need to dedicate 30 minutes of your day to your sweat session. HIIT will give you the physical and mental confidence that we all are looking for- one interval at a time.
As always if you have any questions about HIIT or any of our other blog posts don’t hesitate to email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or message us via social media.
Continue to Follow Your Gut,