As a general rule, I don’t subscribe to the latest fitness ‘craze’. When it comes to exercise, I am old school – running, weight training and yoga pretty much sums it up for me. Zumba, aqua aerobics and other similar trends just don’t float my boat. There is one movement however that I do believe in: High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT).
So what is HIIT and why should you try it out? Have you ever been on the treadmill or the elliptical at the gym and noticed the Interval Training option on the workout regimes? Essentially, HIIT involves interspersing periods of very fast paced and difficult exercise with more gentle activities and periods of recovery. The theory is that doing bursts of hard exercise not only improves cardiovascular fitness but also the body’s ability to burn fat, even during low or moderate intensity workouts. The brilliant thing is that there is no accepted formula for the ratio between hard work and a moderate pace or resting however some guidelines do apply. According to the experts, the high intensity phase should be long and strenuous enough that you become out of breath. It is said this should be typically one to four minutes of exercise at 80 to 85 per cent of your maximum heart rate. Recovery periods should not last long enough for your pulse to return to its resting rate.
There are additional benefits of HIIT, other than improving fitness. One such advantage is that it allows exercises to spend more time doing high intensity activity than they could in a single sustained effort. Another benefit? It takes way less time to achieve the desired result than jogging or running for, say, an hour. The quick bursts of energy rev the metabolism and ignite the fat burning metabolism, meaning you can reach the same result in 20 minutes instead of slower activity performed over a longer period of time.
HIIT doesn’t just apply to cardio workouts though. Intervals of high intensity weight training are a highly effective way to build muscle while elevating your heart rate (and offering some cardiovascular benefits in the meantime). This method of weight training also means you spend less time at the gym overall. Simply shorten your rest breaks between sets and ensure your heart rate remains high and your will soon see the sweat pouring off you and will notice visible results in a much shorter time.
Although exercising at a higher intensity is hard and strenuous, the added bonus of shorter periods of work at this level mean your workout is over sooner and your body can recover more quickly. Give it a go and see what you think.