High Intensity Interval Training, known more commonly as HIIT, is an efficient and effective way to improve heart health and endurance while reducing the boredom that often comes with traditional fitness routines.
These workouts incorporate many different exercises such as mountain climbers, jumping jacks and squats and feature short bursts of high intensity work followed by a brief rest. For example, you may do 30 seconds of sprinting followed by a short rest, then another short sprint followed by other activities. An entire workout can be completed in just 10 to 30 minutes.
HIIT workouts are popular for several reasons. First, the workout can change literally by the minute so you don’t get bored doing the same thing over and over. Second, research shows that several minutes of HIIT can be as effective as much longer sessions of moderate-paced traditional cardio options.
Workouts using this philosophy can be adapted to many cardio sports such as rowing, running, cycling and swimming.
One of the interesting things about HIIT is that this type of aerobic exercise improves the mitochondria’s ability to take in oxygen and produce energy, thus possibly slowing down the aging process.
The key to incorporating HIIT into your gym routine is to start gradually and keep the workout to less than 30 minutes. Begin with one to two HIIT sessions per week and make sure you start by warming up.
Be sure to alternate full rest and active rest periods which could include things like easy jogging on the spot. If weight training is part of your fitness plan you can add HIIT activities such as treadmill sprints following each strength move OR do a few HIIT intervals for a few minutes after your weights are done. Always consult with a physician before starting a HIIT program if you have existing medical conditions.
Keep in mind that one of the keys to success with interval training is to ensure you reach 80 per cent of your maximum heart rate as that is where benefits are gained. (220 minus your age is the formula for this.) As you get stronger you can add more intervals to your workout and reduce the length of your rest sessions.
Although HIIT workouts can be very effective, they are not without a few pitfalls and aren’t necessarily for everyone. A certain level of fitness is required right from the start in order to achieve the intensity required. This kind of intensity can translate into a high rate of injuries compared to less intense training, so make sure you monitor joints, muscle tweaks and maintain correct body positions while doing your intervals.
Another downfall would be following an inappropriately designed HIIT program that focuses on some muscle groups while ignoring others. A proper HIIT workout should incorporate movements that target all muscle groups. In addition, the intensity required for these workouts can be overwhelming to some participants, so take it slow at the start if you want to take advantage of the benefits of HIIT.