This form of training confers a wide variety of benefits.
High-intensity interval training, or HIIT, has become more popular over the last few years, and not without reason; there is now a volume of scientific data showing that HIIT is highly beneficial both for the cardiovascular system and the musculoskeletal system.
High-intensity interval training is a form of exercise consisting of short bursts of highly intense exercise––such as sprinting––followed by short periods of rest and recovery. HIIT training sessions are typically short, between 15 and 20 minutes (they can go longer, however), but are far more intense than workouts that most people are used to.
The key to HIIT is to operate at your near maximum potential––really go all out––and then, rest. Rest periods are key with HIIT, as is the intensity of the work period; the two extreme metabolic states are part of what make HIIT effective, according to research. The ratio for work: rest should be approximately 1:2. So, for every 30 seconds, you are working, you should rest for 60 seconds. If your work period is 60 seconds, rest for 120 seconds. These intervals are repeated multiple times.
But just what constitutes HIIT? Really, anything that forces you to work really hard! It could be sprinting, it could be running stairs, or doing burpees… any exercise that forces your body to operate at near maximum capacity can be turned into a HIIT regimen. There are a wide variety of exercises that can be worked into a HIIT session.
HIIT sounds simple because it is. But how effective is it? HIIT sounds so starkly different from most people’s perception of laboring for hours in the gym or performing hours of cardio. Ironically, many of these monotonous, laborious activities can do more harm than good; science has shown that too much cardio can have some negative health benefits, as can overtraining with weights.
This is not to say that these exercises are bad, necessarily; surely, any kind of exercise confers a large number of benefits when done properly and in the right amount. The difference with HIIT is that it has been shown to be highly efficient, highly effective, and perhaps confer more health benefits than many traditional forms of exercise.
One study concluded that, “…HIIT, in many forms, can elicit significant improvements in endurance performance in already highly trained athletes.” Another study stated that “Considerable evidence currently exists to support a role for low-volume HIT as a potent and time-efficient training method for inducing both central (cardiovascular) and peripheral (skeletal muscle) adaptations that are linked to improved health outcomes.” In other words, HIIT is, according to science, really good for promoting health.
You should not overdo it with HIIT. Typically, you should have at least 48 hours between sessions to allow your body to recover. But there are a few definitive reasons why you should incorporate HIIT into your workout regimen.
It is efficient.
Many HIIT training sessions only last for between 15-20 minutes. These are recommended a few times a week. Most people can find the time to do this sort of exercise. For most HIIT exercises, you do not need equipment, either, meaning, no trips to the gym or expensive tools to install at home. Yet, your time is maximized as you can achieve excellent results.
Increased metabolism, and fat burning, muscle building.
HIIT is very effective at increasing your metabolism and burning fat. One of the interesting things about HIIT is that the fat burn continues even after your workout. This is in contrast to regular cardio; once you stop your jog or bike ride, the fat burning stops. HIIT increases metabolism even after you stop exercising. HIIT works to build lean muscle, the kind that facilities the physique most people are chasing.
HIIT is a great cardiovascular exercise.
HIIT gets your heart rate into an anaerobic zone, which according to some studies, dramatically increases cardiovascular endurance. Even if you compete in endurance sports, such as long distance running, HIIT training can increase your cardiovascular strength and improve performance.