Physical activity is great for us. It improves our mood, strengthens our health, and helps us sleep better. But between going to work, taking the kids to activities, walking the dog, making dinner, and about 70 gazillion other errands, finding the time to exercise can be a challenge. Which is precisely what’s making quick, efficient high intensity interval training (HIIT) more and more popular.
In this post, we’ll tell you more about what HIIT is, explore the benefits of this exercise, and show you how it can become part of even the busiest person’s daily routine.
What is HIIT?
High intensity interval training refers to workouts that alternate short bursts of intense exercise with low intensity recovery periods—elevating your heart rate quickly, and enabling you to get health benefits in less time than a traditional workout takes.
Lasting between 10 and 30 minutes, a typical HIIT workout might include sprinting, biking, or bodyweight training. A short period of intense exercise (say, 30 seconds of sprinting) is followed by several minutes of more relaxed jogging. Then the process is repeated (typically four to six times in one workout).
What are some of HIIT’s benefits?
A short, vigorous HIIT workout can produce the same health benefits as a more relaxed workout that’s twice as long. What, precisely, are those benefits? Read on.
- You’ll burn a lot of calories in a short time. Which is ideal for those on a tight schedule.
- Your metabolic rate will be higher for hours after a HIIT workout, which means you’ll keep on burning calories even after you’ve stopped exercising. Bonus!
- You’ll see decreases in body fat, heart rate, and blood pressure. Once again, getting the positive effects of endurance exercise in a condensed time frame.
Getting Started with HIIT
The first step is to choose your activity. The second step is to start experimenting with different lengths of intense exercise, coupled with slower-paced recovery periods.
But before you start, we have a few suggestions. (Don’t we always?)
- Work your way up to high intensity intervals. In other words: don’t suddenly start sprinting if you haven’t already built up your stamina with slower runs.
- Keep your work periods under 30 seconds. Longer periods of intense exercise will be difficult to maintain.
- Make sure your rest periods are long enough. They should be equal to or longer than your work periods.
- Start with just a few cycles, twice a week. And give yourself adequate recovery time between sessions. Overdoing HIIT can cause injuries.
Examples of HIIT workouts
There are many physical activities that lend themselves to the HIIT concept. But here are a few sample workouts we’ve found—some of which require additional equipment (like a bicycle, or a pool), and one that requires only feet and motivation.
Swimming. Freestyle as fast as you can for 15 to 30 seconds, then switch to a more relaxed breaststroke for 15 to 30 seconds, then rest 60 to 90 seconds. Repeat the sequence for 20 to 30 minutes.
Bicycling. Pedal as fast as possible for 30 seconds, then pedal at a slow, easy pace for two to four minutes. Repeat the sequence for 15 to 30 minutes.
Running. Jog slowly to warm up, then sprint as fast as possible for 15 seconds. Return to slow jogging or walking for one or two minutes. Repeat the sequence for 10 to 20 minutes.
HIIT vs. Strength Training and Cardio Only
What are the relative benefits of HIIT versus strength training?
A HIIT workout focuses on your heart, while strength training targets your muscles. Of course, it’s always possible for you to combine the two.
For instance, you could take your usual bodybuilding workout, then add one minute of cardio activity (think jump rope, jumping jacks, or burpees) to get your heart racing after each weightlifting set. Then, take a short rest of 15 to 30 seconds—and then repeat the process for the rest of your workout.
Looking for a HIIT class in Hancock County or East Central Indiana?
If you’d like to be part of a group HIIT workout led by an experienced instructor, Hancock Health offers guided routines at our Hancock Wellness Centers, located conveniently in Greenfield, McCordsville, and New Palestine. Find the facility nearest you—then check class schedules to HIIT the ground running.