Our Editors independently research, test, and rate what we feel are the best products. We use affiliate links and may receive a small commission on purchases.
You’ve probably heard the term used before as an effective method for losing weight, improving lean muscle mass, stamina, and much more. But what exactly is HIIT? Well, we’re going to fill you in on exactly that, and even take you through a few sample workouts to give you a better idea of how you can apply it to your life. We know you’re eager to get started, so let’s jump right in!
High-intensity interval training, or “HIIT” is a form of interval training where you perform cardiovascular exercise alternating between short spurts of intense anaerobic exercise with less intense recover periods until you are too tired to go on.
While HIIT is definitely intense, it’s great for those of all kinds of backgrounds and physical fitness as there’s no specific amount of time these workouts should endure for. However, most are usually under 30 minutes because if done properly, you’ll be much too exhausted to go longer than that.
It’s important to note that during the more intense intervals, the person’s heart rate should reach at least 80% of their maximum capacity from anywhere from 1 to 5 minutes.
Essentially, if you’re short on time and want to get the best bang for your buck, HIIT is the one for you. You simply won’t be able to receive the benefits you get from HIIT from exercising the same amount of time with steady-state cardio or “traditional” forms of exercise.
What are the benefits?
There are a ton of benefits from HIIT that we know of, though there are probably more out there that we have yet to discover. Let’s take a look at the most well-documented benefits.
1. Large Calorie Burn
Don’t you just wish you could spend a few minutes on the treadmill and burn off that entire donut you had at breakfast? It’s not easy to do with steady-state cardio but you can definitely make a bigger dent in it with HIIT.
One study compared calories burned during 30 minutes of HIIT, weight training, running, and biking. What researches found was that HIIT burned up to 30% more calories than every other form. What that means is that you can essentially burn the same amount of calories with HIIT through exercising for just 1/3 of the time you would by running and biking!
If you have just 15 or 20 minutes free, this is a very feasible option for you to reach your goals.
2. Raised Metabolic Rate
With steady-state cardio, you will burn calories up until you finish your workout. With HIIT, you’re actually going to burn calories for up to 24 hours after you finish. You’ll find similar behavior in metabolic rates through lifting weights, though even HIIT yields bigger and longer calorie burns.
On top of that, it was proven to favor using fat for energy instead of carbs, which can further help you burn body fat.
3. It Can Help You Lose Fat
Another review performed looked at over 400 overweight adults and discovered that HIIT along with moderate-intensity exercise can reduce body fat along with waist size. This of course, isn’t just applicable to those who are overweight, but any human being.
Moreover, another study concluded that those who partake in HIIT at least 3 times per week for just 20 minutes were able to lose almost 4.5 pounds in 3 months, without even changing their diets. As almost 20 percent of that fat lost consisted of visceral fat, that can make it wonderful for lowering the risk of various diseases. As visceral fat is the fat which surrounds internal organs, this is a huge finding.
4. Muscle Gain
If you’re just starting to get into a fitness routine and don’t normally exercise much, HIIT can help you increase your lean muscle mass – particularly in the lower body and even your core. When you combine this with the fat loss HIIT promotes, you can realistically expect a significantly toner body with consistent work.
5. Improved Oxygen Consumption
Oxygen consumption is basically how well your muscles can utilize oxygen. While in the past we saw endurance training as the gold standard to improve oxygen consumption, we now know that HIIT can offer the same benefits in much less time. In fact, various studies have found that HIIT increased oxygen consumption by the same amount as traditional exercise on stationary bikes for exactly half the amount of time. Imagine getting the same benefits by spending 50% less the time – that would really help save you time!
6. Reduction in Heart Rate, Blood Sugar, and Blood Pressure
Various studies have found that HIIT can decrease blood pressure just as much as endurance training in adults who already have high BP. However, we should note that it hasn’t yet been shown to change blood pressure in those who possess a normal body weight and blood pressure.
Over a whopping 50 studies have shown that HIIT not only reduces blood sugar, but also improves insulin resistance more than what traditional continuous exercise offers. For those at risk of Type 2 diabetes, this can offer some serious benefits.
How to Get Started
Now that you’ve read about how amazing HIIT can be if done properly and consistently, you’re probably curious about how you can get started! Take a look through a couple of our sample workouts to get a better idea. We encourage you to give at least one a try!
Sample Workout #1
- First, get a good pair of HIIT shoes and an exercise mat. As you’re really going to be exerting yourself and working your muscles, you first need to stretch and warm up.
- Next, either get on a treadmill or go outside to a place you can comfortably and safely run.
- Start at either a fast walk or a light jog to warm up for 2 to 3 minutes. Make sure your muscles are nice and warm, but that you can still breathe and talk comfortably.
- After this, sprint as fast as you can for 15 seconds.
- Now, go back to walking or jogging at a slow pace for 1-2 minutes.
- Repeat for anywhere from 10 to 20 minutes.
- Cool down for 2-3 minutes by walking.
Sample Workout #2
- Make sure to perform your stretches and properly warm up.
- Start out pedaling at a slow, steady pace for around 2-4 minutes.
- Then, pedal as hard and fast as you can for 30 seconds.
- Repeat this for up to 30 minutes.
Sample Workout #3
This workout will absolutely torch your upper body, though it is still technically a workout that will target every major muscle group.
- Grab a pair of battle ropes.
- Start by moving them at a slow, steady pace for around 2 minutes.
- Then move them as fast and hard as you can for 30 seconds – you can do either slams or waves as these work best for HIIT.
- Rest for 1 minute.
- Repeat for 10 rounds.
While HIIT offers a wide array of benefits, it’s also a great form of exercise due to the fact that you can do it just about anywhere, with anything you have available to you. You can do it on flat ground on a sidewalk, at the park, on a treadmill, on hills, with jump ropes, weights – the options really are endless.
We hope that this guide has been able to give you a deeper understanding about what HIIT and how you can apply it to your life to reap the benefits. Thank you for tuning in with us, and we’ll see you again soon!