High intensity interval training (HIIT) is a fitness strategy that alternates periods of short, intense exercises – both cardiovascular and strength activities – with recovery periods.
Betsy Bell, a personal trainer and fitness coach at the TriHealth Fitness and Health Pavilion, explains the benefits of HIIT and why you should consider it if you’re in a fitness rut.
#1: You Burn More Calories
The beauty of HIIT is that it helps you continue burning calories – even after you’ve left the gym. When you do strength training, you’re building muscle mass, and you continue burning calories once you’ve stopped, whereas with running, the post-workout calorie burn doesn’t linger for the same amount of time.
So when you combine strength training with cardiovascular activity, you’re heart rate is continuously readjusting itself as your body switches activities and intensity levels, even in the recovery period. “During that time, your metabolism is increasing because your body is constantly trying to keep up with the intense workout that you just put it through,” Betsy explains.
#2: It’s Efficient
Because of the post-workout calorie burn you experience with HIIT, it’s more efficient than most other workouts. If you’re in a time crunch, but still want to exercise, Betsy says to opt for a quick HIIT session, instead of a jog. While most HIIT classes are an hour long, even a 15- or 30-minute session can be worthwhile, if done correctly.
#3: It Builds Endurance
If you’re training for a distance running event, especially a half or full marathon, many professionals suggest doing some form of cross-training, like HIIT, because it helps build cardiovascular endurance.
During high-intensity periods of HIIT you typically push your heart rate to 80 or 90 percent of your maximum heart rate. The best way to determine if you’re exerting yourself enough is to try the “talk test.” You shouldn’t be able to carry a conversation when you’ve reached your ideal heart rate. Because of this conditioning, “you’re able to last longer doing something less intense because you’ve pushed your heart so high,” Betsy points out.
#4: No Equipment Needed
A HIIT session mainly focuses on cardiovascular exercise, like burpees, sprints, jumping and running in place, and strength training activities that use body weight, like squats, lunges and push-ups, requiring minimal equipment.
However, Betsy emphasizes the importance of consulting a professional before doing so. “Form is very important, especially when you’re doing jumping, heavy weight lifting or agility stuff,” she says. “You want to have somebody there watching you, making sure you’re doing it properly because you could really injure yourself.”