High Intensity Interval Training, or HIIT, is a workout designed to engage both aerobic and anaerobic activity which results in multiple benefits including improved cardiovascular health, increased fat loss and muscle growth. Aerobic exercises can be categorized as your basic cardio workout; these activities are usually long lasting and require oxygenated blood to be pumped continuously to the working muscle groups. Throughout the course of the exercise your heart and breathing rate adapt and increase to sustain these functions. In contrast anaerobic exercises are short bursts of exceedingly demanding activity that exceed the amount of available oxygen and rely on the reserve stored in your muscles. Anaerobic exercises are used to help promote strength, speed, power and muscle. HIIT is an uninterrupted sequence of these two forms of physical activity. A 2014 article by the American College of Sports Medicine states the following.
“ HIIT training has been shown to improve 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.”
The research behind HIIT shows that in comparison to continuous and moderate physical activity, the dynamics of HIIT, the periodic cycle of briefly pushing your physical limits followed by brief periods of rest significantly increases health and function.
A 2016 article from the New York Times reported on how HIIT can strengthen the heart.
“By making blood vessels better able to expand, HIIT can improve the cardiovascular system’s ability to respond to added exertion. Oxygen-carrying blood can flow more smoothly through arteries that are wide open, which also reduces the risk of a vessel-blocking clot.”
So what exactly is a HIIT workout? The intense anaerobic periods can range anywhere from mere seconds to eight minutes long, it all depends on the individual. During this portion of the exercise 80-95% of a person’s maximum heart rate and exertion are used followed by equally long or lesser periods of 40-50% of their estimated maximum heart rate.
2:1 ratio- Twenty seconds of high intensity cardio (i.e running, cycling, skipping rope) with maximum effort, followed by ten seconds of rest or the same activity in a lower level of intensity.
Repeat desired amount of sets.
1:1 ratio – Twenty seconds of high intensity cardio (i.e running, cycling, skipping rope) with maximum effort, followed by twenty seconds of rest or the same activity with lower intensity.
Repeat desired amount of sets.
The HIIT program should be used as part of physical activity regimen and not a replacement for standard cardio. A typical HIIT routine can last anywhere from 10-30 minutes but should not exceed the latter. Before engaging in a HIIT program one should bear in mind that HIIT was designed to give professional athletes and people who are more than moderately active a full workout in a fraction of the time. If you live a mostly sedentary lifestyle or are unable to workout for 20-30 minutes without experiencing severe exhaustion then HIIT is not for you. As always you should seek medical advice from your physician before choosing a workout program.
A gym member of The Sparman Clinic and The 4H Hospital Ms. Stephanie S. recently decided to integrate HIIT into her workout regimen.
“I absolutely love HIIT. The intense periods are brutal; you really have to push yourself to stay true to your intervals but once the workout is over you feel great. I can do a HIIT workout for 10 minutes and feel the same way I would if I jogged on the treadmill for 30 minutes. I’m looking forward to seeing the changes in my body because of HIIT”.
Brody, Jane E. "Why Your Workout Should Be High-Intensity." Well Why Your Workout Should Be HighIntensity Comments. The New York Times Company, 25 Jan. 2015. Web. 06 Mar. 2016.
Kravitz, Len, Ph.D. "High Intensity Interval Training." American College of Sports Medicine (2014). Web. 6 Mar. 2016. <https://www.acsm.org/docs/brochures/high-intensity-interval-training.pdf>.