The two most precious commodities in life are time and health. Without either, you won’t get very far. But finding time for our health is one of the biggest struggles today. This is where the benefits of HIIT exercise can help.
Approximately 50% of people bail exercise programs in the first 6 months due to lack of time. Doing HIIT exercise can save time and kill calories without eating into your busy schedule.
There are many benefits of HIIT exercise. It’s not only highly effective for weight loss and heart function – It’s also great for those who are time-poor. If you only have 10 minutes to spare, there’s no reason you can’t squeeze in a quick HIIT workout.
What is HIIT?
It stands for High-Intensity Interval Training (also known as burst training).
Basically, it’s bursts of intense exercise done in short intervals. For example, doing as many starjumps as you can in so many seconds. The aim is to push yourself as hard as you can go with recovery periods in between.
HIIT exercise has been around for a while, dating back to the early 1900s. Science indicates it goes back further as part of our evolution. In ‘caveman times’, humans would do short sprints to catch food or avoid animal attacks. Their ability to burn fat with excessive oxygen allowed them energy for hunting treks.
Amazing Benefits of HIIT Exercise
- No equipment is necessary.
- You don’t need much space.
- Reduces insulin resistance.
- Firms skin and reduces wrinkles.
- Builds muscle.
- Suppresses appetite.
- Major calorie burner.
- Improves functions for those with chronic disease.
- Improves blood pressure.
- Improves brain function.
- Boosts libido.
- Ideal for busy people.
Doing HIIT exercise can reduce the risk of overtraining. Not to mention it prevents boredom (like spending hours on a treadmill)!
Burst Your Way into Fitness
HIIT is popular because it provides a combination of results in less time. It helps you build muscle, burn fat and increase your stamina and endurance. By mixing high intensity with low intensity, it disrupts the metabolic system and produces excess post-oxygen consumption (EPOC). This, in turn, creates an ‘afterburn effect’ (the energy the body burns to recover from intense exercise).
Benefits of HIIT Exercise – Save Time
The afterburn is great news for someone trying to juggle a family and career. Some HIIT exercises are as little as four minutes, ranging up to 15 or 30 minutes. Since the exercises are versatile, you can find any routine to suit your schedule and fitness level.
A study was conducted with overweight and obese adults, performing HIIT and moderate‐intensity continuous training. Both forms of exercise showed a significant reduction in body fat. However, HIIT required 40% less training time for the same results.
Is HIIT Good for Losing Weight?
Yes, the after-burn HIIT can produce can last 48 hours or more, post-workout.
Insulin plays a major role in your metabolism and weight loss. Performing HIIT can help stabilise your blood sugar, which then affects your insulin sensitivity.
HIIT also assists in balancing hormones that directly affect your weight:
- Leptin – this gives you the sensation of feeling full, so you don’t overeat.
- Ghrelin – this gives you the munchies for salty or sweet food.
HIIT helps control your cravings. Ghrelin is also released from stress, but the ‘happy endorphins’ from HIIT can combat stress too.
This exercise method is known to improve body tone and performance in a matter of weeks. For best results, it’s recommended you build up to 20-minute sessions or longer. And don’t forget to watch what you eat. Add fuel to your HIIT workouts by eating food that boosts energy.
Where Can I do HIIT Exercise?
Virtually anywhere. Since there’s such a wide range of manoeuvres, you can do it outdoors or in the small space of your living room. HIIT is the perfect exercise at home because it can be as simple as running on the spot or using stationary equipment.
Types of HIIT Exercises
You can incorporate just about any exercise into a HIIT routine. Such as core exercises and these strength training techniques.
You can do it with:
- no equipment – jumping jacks, burpees, mountain climbers, lunges, squats etc.
- cardio equipment – elliptical trainers, treadmills, exercise bikes etc.
- weights – bicep curls, snatches, kettlebell swings, resistance bands etc.
You can also do HIIT with outdoor cardio exercises, such as jogging/running in intervals, doing pool sprints, or cycling at two speeds.
As you explore the world of HIIT, you’ll come across the term Tabata. This is a form of HIIT where you go as hard as you can for 20 seconds, recover for 10 seconds and repeat eight times. The total workout is four minutes.
It was devised by scientist Dr Izumi Tabata in 1996. He discovered that a four-minute HIIT session improved the cardiovascular and muscle system more effectively (by 28%) than those doing moderate-intensity workouts five days a week.
How to do a HIIT Exercise Routine
You can do various interval times and sets and build upon them as your fitness improves. As a beginner, you’ll need longer recovery periods. Over time, you can increase the work-to-recovery ratio.
During your ‘work’ period, you should try to reach 80 – 95% of your maximum heart rate. In the ‘recovery’ period, you can rest completely or slow to at least half the speed.
HIIT Ratio Examples:
20 seconds on/10 seconds off
30 seconds on/15 seconds off
30 seconds on/30 seconds off
40 seconds on/20 seconds off
YouTube has plenty of interval timers you can use.
Beginners HIIT – No Equipment
Beginners HIIT – With Weights
And there are sessions like this that cater to people with bad knees or mobility issues.
Make no mistake, HIIT isn’t easy. A few minutes can feel like a long time when you’re going full speed. But research confirms that people reported more enjoyment doing HIIT than moderate-intensity exercise, despite it being more physically demanding.
How Many Times a Week Should You do HIIT?
The most common recommendation from trainers is 3 times per week. Due to the high intensity, it’s important to allow time for your body to recover (and the ‘afterburn’ is still in play).
HIIT may not be for everyone. If you’re brand new to exercise it’s best to work on your base level of fitness. It’s recommended you seek advice from a trainer and/or medical physician first.
- Not recommended for people with heart complications.
- Not recommended during pregnancy.
- Warm-up and cool-down exercises still apply.
- Wear appropriate shoes to avoid strain or injury.
- Beware of objects around you, and kids or animals that may get underfoot.
Get Extra Credit with HIIPA
What’s this, isn’t one acronym enough? HIIPA stands for ‘High-Intensity Incidental Physical Activity.’ It can coincide with your weekly routine. Basically, it’s about seizing opportunities throughout your day to do movements that get the heart pumping. Check out these 5 ways to use HIIPA for ideas.
Don’t burn yourself out running around like a headless chicken – burn calories instead. In doing so you’ll increase your energy and improve your health, enabling you to achieve much more in your day.
The benefits of HIIT exercise eliminate time constraints (and excuses). The next time you have a few minutes spare, give it a try.
Got a favourite HIIT routine? Leave a comment and let me know.