High-intensity interval training (HIIT) has been piquing the interest of fitness professionals and skyrocketing in popularity over the last few years – and for good reason.
In today’s busy world, HIIT routines are an ideal alternative to traditional workouts. A HIIT program helps optimize every second of your training session, setting you up to burn more calories (and fat) – both during and after your workout.
Before we get into the myriad benefits of HIIT, let’s first define what constitutes a HIIT program.
What is HIIT?
HIIT workouts involve an alternating combination of work and rest periods. The work periods are – you guessed it – intense and range in duration from 10 seconds to six minutes each. The aim is to execute these intensity intervals at 75 to 95 per cent of your estimated maximum heart rate (MHR). Not sure what your MHR is? For a close approximation, subtract your age from 220. For example, a 46-year-old has a target MHR of 174 (220 minus 46).
Between each intensity session is a recovery period of roughly the same duration. Keep in mind that during this recovery, you should try to maintain a heart rate of between 40 to 50 per cent of your MHR.
HIIT routines can be easily modified for people of all fitness levels and abilities, including those with special considerations associated with diabetes, obesity or metabolic syndrome. Because a HIIT workout can incorporate an incredibly diverse selection of activities, it’s a highly inclusive training option. These activities could include (but are certainly not limited to) cycling, running, walking, swimming, elliptical cross training or group fitness classes.
How you can benefit from a HIIT routine
Many fitness professionals promote HIIT programs over traditional workout routines because of their nearly unparalleled effectiveness and efficiency. A HIIT workout burns significantly more calories than a moderate or low-intensity program – and it continues to do so even after the workout is completed. The post-exercise period is known as “excess post-exercise oxygen consumption,” or EPOC. Lasting for approximately two to three hours after your workout, EPOC is when your body works to restore its normal baseline levels. Because HIIT is so vigorous, its EPOC period burns an additional six to 15 per cent of the calories burned during the workout itself.
Just how efficient are HIIT workouts? Squeezing in a mere 20 minutes of high intensity exercise has been shown to have the same physiological benefit as a 60-minute session of low to moderate intensity. So if you find yourself “too busy” to work out during the week, a HIIT program might be the ideal solution.
But the benefits don’t stop there. Research indicates that HIIT improves your cardiovascular health, insulin sensitivity, cholesterol profile, blood pressure and both aerobic and anaerobic fitness levels, and that it helps reduce abdominal fat and body weight while maintaining muscle mass.
It’s a simple equation: high intensity = high-impact results.
Are HIIT routines safe?
People living a sedentary lifestyle may face an increased risk of coronary problems when undertaking a new high-intensity exercise program. Your individual family history, smoking habits and presence of hypertension, diabetes (or pre-diabetes), abnormal cholesterol levels and/or obesity can further increase this risk. If you have any of these risk factors, it’s strongly recommended that you consult your physician and obtain medical approval before engaging in a HIIT program.
In fact, before starting a HIIT program, your best bet is to connect with a registered kinesiologist regardless of your medical history. Your kinesiologist will work with you to create a personalized HIIT program that meets your goals while safely and progressively building your stamina.
Make no mistake: HIIT is hard. Your body requires conditioning to develop the muscular and cardiovascular stamina to maintain this level of intensity and support the oxygen transport necessary for fueling your lungs and muscles. When done properly, however, the results are worth it.
Ready to kick your workout routine into high gear? Ask your Copeman kinesiologist for a VO2 max test to get started. This cutting-edge test will precisely determine your MHR and ensure that your personalized HIIT program is designed to be as safe, challenging and effective as possible.