For many of us, finding enough time to exercise can be challenging. Some days, it might seem easier to skip our workout routine because we feel like there isn’t enough time to make it worthwhile. And it certainly doesn’t help that the COVID-19 pandemic has prevented us from keeping up with our gym and yoga sessions. However, you don’t need to spend hours at the gym to reap the benefits of a workout or to see positive results— in fact, exercising just a few minutes a day can be extremely beneficial for your health.
Meet HIIT (High-Intensity Interval Training): a short but effective fitness trend that’s popped into our lives and transformed the way we get our sweat on. HIIT is great for weight loss, slowing down your biological clock, toning your body and improving overall health without the time commitment of those lengthy workout sessions we’ve become accustomed to. A 2020 worldwide survey of fitness trends actually found that HIIT was voted one of the top fitness movements of the year. Interval-based workouts have started popping up seemingly everywhere: at chains like F45 and Orangetheory, group classes at GoodLife Fitness and even in yoga studios. More recently, HIIT has exploded on various online platforms, from specialized apps to Instagram and YouTube. With its growing popularity on social media, it’s easier than ever to follow along to hundreds of different HIIT routines and find the ones that work best for you.
What is HIIT?
Now that we have your attention, let’s get into more detail. In short, HIIT is a type of physical training that involves fast, intense bursts of exercise, paired with intervals of quick rest. However, for HIIT to be effective, those intense bursts need to get a person’s heart rate to reach at least 80 percent of its maximum capacity for one to five minutes. According to Fitness Blender, this type of intense training causes a sort of metabolic disturbance which can result in the body burning calories at a higher rate up to 48-72 hours later. The intensity of these exercises can increase metabolism and improve aerobic and anaerobic stamina while burning fat for hours after the exercise has been completed. With all the baking we’ve been doing lately and with bathing suit season upon us, that definitely doesn’t sound like a bad deal.
A common misconception about exercise is that you need to spend long hours at the gym to see significant results.
HIIT challenges this notion as a highly efficient workout that can be done from anywhere, in a short amount of time, and with little to no equipment! The fast pace and rest intervals also keep your workout fun and interesting! However, it’s also important not to overdo it. Although HIIT is extremely effective and promises several great benefits, too much can create stress on your body. Therefore, it is recommended that HIIT only be performed two to three times a week with at least 48 hours of rest between exercise sessions to allow your muscles to recover. It is still possible to exercise the day after a HIIT session, but it should be a low- to moderate-intensity activity and should engage different muscle groups.
What are the benefits of HIIT?
You can do it from anywhere
One of the many benefits of HIIT workouts is that you can easily do them from any place, at any time! “Since most HIIT workouts max out around 20 minutes, you can do it in the middle of the workday when you need a break, before focusing in on what needs to be done next,” says Ben Sweeney, a New York City–based trainer. Whether it’s at a gym, outdoors, or at home, the enticing concept of HIIT allows you to modify your routine to the time and space of your liking. Furthermore, you don’t need any equipment for an effective HIIT workout! High knees, burpees, and jumping jacks will work effectively to get your heart rate up and running.
HIIT promotes weight loss
There is no doubt that HIIT is a great way to lose weight without compromising your muscle gain. This form of intense exercise depletes the oxygen sources reaching our muscles, forcing our bodies to burn fat for energy instead. In fact, a 2017 analysis of 18 studies found that HIIT training is associated with a larger reduction in body fat and greater improvement in heart and lung fitness in obese adults.
HIIT is great for your heart
Doing HIIT can greatly benefit your cardiovascular fitness. Research suggests that HIIT is linked to improved metabolism, heart health, body composition, blood pressure, glucose control, weight loss and improved endurance. Overall, the short bursts of intense aerobic movement improve the flexibility and elasticity of our arteries and veins, ultimately building a better circulatory system.
What does a HIIT routine look like?
At fitness studios and online, HIIT workouts will often mix aerobics and resistance training. However, in order to qualify as a true HIIT workout, you will need to push yourself to the max during every set. You can do HIIT workouts with pretty much any exercise, but for best results, you should aim to hit all the muscle groups. This includes full-body exercises such as burpees, jumping jacks, squats and push-ups. To add an extra layer of difficulty, you can even add some weights to certain exercises. However, try to use lighter weights as HIIT is meant to test endurance rather than strength.
Resting during HIIT
It’s important to remember that the rest periods between each set are an essential part of the workout. Why? Those high-intensity periods during HIIT are actually changing the chemical composition of your muscles, making them more powerful and giving them more endurance. When you push hard, your body then works to restore itself to a neutral state. Several physiological changes happen during this recovery phase, such as improved lung capacity and more efficient oxygen transport. Rest time also allows your body to get into a fat-burning zone and recover for the next interval, allowing you to exercise longer and more vigorously. This allows you to push your cardio performance to the max which ultimately enables you to burn more calories.
We’re challenging you to try it!
Next time you want to take a break from sitting at your desk, or you’d like to squeeze in a quick workout while the kids take a nap, or even if you just decide you want to change up that workout routine that hasn’t really been effective for you, give HIIT a try and we promise, you’ll be feeling that burn for days to come!
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