What is HIIT training? Is it for you?

There’s always a new fitness trend to try, and I think that’s great news. We’re all different, with our own interests, needs, likes and lifestyles. And not just regarding taste, our bodies are different too. This means that not all bodies react the same way to a type of workout. So having a wide variety to choose from is refreshing.

I like to try these new trends at least once. This way I can see if I connect with the workout, if I enjoy doing it, if it adapts to my lifestyle and how my body responds to it. 

One of the workouts that has grown in popularity is the high-intensity interval training, also known as HIIT. What HIIT consists of are short bursts of high-intensity exercises, followed by a short period of rest.

This training has become very popular because it doesn’t take much time, and those who have tight schedules (including myself) appreciate this. The idea is that the intervals are short, but to compensate, the exercises are very intense. This efficiency even got HIIT a spot in the American College of Sports Medicine’s top fitness trends for 2020.

How does it work?

HIIT workouts are a combination of high and low intensity. You perform a period of really intense exercise, then either rest or do a low intensity exercise for a little while, and then you repeat. You’ll find some workouts that focus on aerobic training, but there are others that combine aerobic with resistance training. 

The objective is to get your heart pumping. These exercises increase your heart rate at least 80 percent of its maximum capacity during the high intensity moments, which tend to last from one to five minutes. When you’re exercising you’ll feel that you’re giving your max, and the circuits will feel like a challenge, but don’t worry, it’ll all be over in a few seconds. 

Nonetheless, when I heard about putting my heart pumping in an intense way I couldn’t help but wonder if this is good, if this is healthy. In a nutshell, it’s much healthier than I thought. As a matter of fact, it improves heart health. 

A study by the British Journal of Sports Medicine says that cardiorespiratory fitness (CPR) is key to combat morbidity and mortality. CPR refers to the capacity of the circulatory and respiratory systems to supply oxygen to skeletal muscles to produce the energy the body needs during physical activity. So, what the study found out is that high-intensity interval training is superior to moderate-intensity continuous training in improving cardiorespiratory fitness. 

And it’s not only pertinent to work on your CRF as you grow older, it’s very important to do when you’re young. Healthy CRF is positively associated with cardiovascular health, academic achievement, and mental well-being in young people. However, only 40% of U.S. youth currently have a healthy CRF.

Will it help you lose weight? 

So we already know that HIIT is time-efficient and it’s good for your heart. What about your figure? 

Exercising is always good to burn calories. However, when you’re doing HIIT it’s a little tricky. By default this training is meant to be short, so the shorter it is, the less calories it’ll burn. For weight loss, workouts should be a little longer, around 25 to 30 minutes (including warm-up and cool-down). Consistency is also important, so you should be doing this three times a week. However, for efficient weight loss, it’s not just about the exercise, it’s also about the diet (stay tuned for a post on calories vs carbs, and how that affects your weight).

Nonetheless, there are studies that show that even in short intervals it does burn fat. Running in short, intense intervals decreases body fat while increasing aerobic capacity.

Something very important to consider is not to miss warm-up and cool-down. Because of the intensity of the workout it’s very important to prepare your body before the intense training to avoid injuries, and help it settle once the training is over. 

Is this for you?

There are many types of HIIT training, so you should look for the one that suits you the most. 

If you just started exercising, don’t push it. Stick to shorter periods (not even a minute, even) of high intensity, and longer periods of recovery (two or even three minutes). Listen to your body and rest when it asks you to.

How do you know it’s enough? The idea is to get your heart rate to 70 or 90 percent. A heart rate monitor, like the one on a fitbit or an intelligent watch, can be useful. But if you don’t have one just do the math: 220 minus your age. That’s the maximum heart rate, so stay below that number. 

If you have a heart disease or other health problems you shouldn’t do HIIT unless your doctor approves. 

Was it for me? I’ve never been very keen on gym-like workouts. I’m a dancer and I enjoy exercises that touch that nerve much more. However, my schedule is always tight and I can’t be consistent with longer dance routines. So, for me, this was a great alternative. I get to have an efficient workout in a short period of time. And it even helps me be in shape for my dancing classes. When I combine these I feel in better shape and I also feel stronger.

Last tip: for HIIT workouts at home I love the ones MadFit has in her YouTube channel. Here’s one of them:

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