Have you heard the term “high intensity interval training” but don’t have a clue what it is? Here’s the scoop: High intensity interval training — or HIIT— is an exercise plan where you alternate short bursts of intense work with short periods of recovery. Translation: Go as hard as you can for a short time, ease off to go at an easy pace, then go hard again.
HIIT training has been shown to improve heart health, blood pressure, insulin sensitivity, cholesterol profiles, and body fat …. All while maintaining muscle mass.
Even better, this type of training can help you get the same benefits in a fraction of the time. Yup. In one Canadian study, researchers put sedentary men on an exercise bike for three, all-out cycling bursts for 20 seconds with 2-minute slow cycle periods in between, three times a week over a three-month period. They found that five minutes of that intensive interval training could improve heart heath, respiratory fitness and muscle function as much as 45 minutes of continuous aerobic exercise.1
Add 5 minutes for a warm up and cool down, and we’re talking 30 minutes per week vs. 150 minutes per week for the same fitness gains. Pretty amazing stats.
And HIIT workouts help you burn more calories than low-intensity workouts, because of something called excess post-exercise oxygen consumption. Or EPOC. It’s sort of how a car’s engine remains warm after it’s turned off. Your body continues to burn more calories, even after your workout ends, HIIT workouts tend to increase EPOC by anywhere from 6 to 15 percent more calories.2
Can I really DO interval training?
It may be time to rethink any notion that “intense” work isn’t for you. Before you start though, there are some things you should keep in mind, especially if you’re over 50 or haven’t exercised before. First, see your doctor to make sure you’re ready to start an exercise program. If you have a history of cigarette smoking, high blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol or are very overweight, it’s particularly important that you see a doctor before trying anything high intensity.
Once you get the go ahead to start moving, make sure always to warm up before exercise and cool down afterwards. It’s tempting to skip these steps, but don’t! Also, each recovery period may last longer than a minute or two. That’s okay. Let your body lead you and only start the next “all out” when you’re ready. Lastly, remember to hydrate properly. More on that later …
As for the HIIT, there’s no reason to be afraid. HIIT doesn’t have to be super “intense” to get the benefits. You can add a bit of HIIT to ANY aerobic exercise such as walking, jogging, stair climbing, cycling, rowing, swimming, or cross country skiing. Here’s how:
- Warm up by walking, biking, swimming, or whatever you’re doing at a pace that’s comfortable for you for five minutes.
- After warming up, increase your speed, going as fast as you can for 20 to 30 seconds or so. If you can only do 10 seconds of speed work, that’s okay too. While you’re doing the high-intensity work, you should feel slightly uncomfortable and out of breath. So, if you’re walking around the block, spot a parked car a block or two away and push yourself to walk as fast as you can until you reach the car. If you’re swimming laps, go all out for one full lap across the pool.
- Go back to your normal pace for a minute or two, until you feel your breathing slowed down. (Again, it might be more than a minute or two – that’s okay.)
- Then repeat for a few cycles as you feel comfortable.
- Always remember to cool down.
You can also incorporate a bit of HIIT into your resistance training. After you’ve finished doing one repetition, get up and do a few jumping jacks. After you’ve done a second set, walk quickly from one machine to another.
Add one interval workout a week into your regular exercise routine. Then, as you get in better shape, you can add a second and so on.
See? Nothing to be scared about!
Now, if you’re adding intervals into your training, you absolutely must remember to drink before, during, and after exercise. Your body needs water to regulate temperature, transport nutrients throughout the body, and lubricate joints. If you don’t drink enough you may experience fatigue, muscle cramps, dizziness, or more serious symptoms.
To help your body absorb the water you’re drinking, consider taking Replace® SR Sustained Release Electrolytes. Each tablet uses our advanced delivery technology to release electrolytes slowly over a 4- to 6-hour period as your body needs them to help you absorb the water you drink to stay hydrated. And it’s available in 3-tablet packets, for on-the-go convenience. Just pop one in your gym bag and you’re set!*
1. Gillen JB, Martin BJ, MacInnis MJ, Skelly LE, Tarnopolsky MA, Gibala MJ. Twelve weeks of sprint interval training improves indices of cardiometabolic health similar to traditional endurance training despite a five-fold lower exercise volume and time commitment. PLoS One. 2016;11(4):e0154075. PMID: 27115137.
2. LaForgia J, Withers RT, Gore CJ. Effects of exercise intensity and duration on the excess post-exercise oxygen consumption. J Sports Sci. 2006;24(12):1247-64. Review. PMID: 17101527.
* These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.