If you stay up-to-date about the latest fitness trends, you’ve probably heard about high-intensity interval training, or HIIT. According to a recent survey by the American College of Sports Medicine, HIIT workouts, such as P90X and CrossFit, are among the top 10 fitness trends this year, along with group personal training and yoga. The phrase “fitness trends” may have some people wondering whether they are phony or for-real. Here we explain what HIIT is and how exactly it works.
What is HIIT?
HIIT is a form of exercise in which intense bursts of activity are alternated with periods of active recovery or rest. HIIT workouts can include cardio, strength training or a combination of both.
The idea behind HIIT is that the combination of high- and low-intensity exercise allows the body to burn more fat than it would burn from doing an exercise with consistent intensity throughout. HIIT also allows the body to increase both aerobic and anaerobic endurance, or the ability of the body to perform well with and without oxygen. Below are some of the biggest proven benefits of HIIT.
Benefits of HIIT
1. Increases metabolism
The combination of interval training and high-intensity moves can speed up your metabolic rate, and the muscle you build will help you burn additional calories.
2. Lose weight from fat, not muscle
Unlike most cardio workouts, HIIT allows you to lose weight from fat while preserving your muscle.
3. No equipment necessary
Most HIIT workouts don’t require any equipment but instead involve moves like squats, pushups and jumping.
4. Easy to fit in schedule
Because many HIIT workouts are as short as 15 to 20 minutes, they are relatively easy to squeeze into a busy schedule, whether it’s before work, during your lunch break or after work.
HIIT—unlike lower-intensity exercises—helps you to continue burning calories well after the workout is over—a phenomenon known as afterburn.
Sample HIIT workouts
To start reaping the benefits of HIIT, try one of the workouts below.
(Click on images to enlarge)
High-intensity track workout
HIIT on the track, if done correctly and consistently, can help runners develop a more efficient stride at all paces over time. Start out by doing the beginners’ workout once a week, and build to no more than twice every 10 days. Slowly move on to the next level when the previous workout becomes easier.
Do-anywhere HIIT workout
This workout requires no equipment and only takes 15-20 minutes total to complete. With moves like burpees, push-ups and planks, you will feel the burn in muscles all over your body. Perform each set three times before moving on to the next set, and add a warm up and cool down to prevent injury. This circuit can be done up to three times per week.
Multimedia journalist with a bachelor’s degree in English Literature and a master’s in Broadcast Journalism and Public Affairs