Despite your willingness to exercise, a lack of time, not having access to exercise facilities, and financial constraints can stop you from working out. Fortunately, high-intensity interval training or HIIT can overcome all these barriers. Additionally, it can also provide several benefits to your health.
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HIIT Explained: What Is High-Intensity Interval Training?
High-intensity interval Training (HIIT) is an exercise that involves alternating short bursts of intense activity with brief periods of rest or lower-intensity activity. It can include both aerobic and strength exercises in one workout.
HIIT is well-known for being a quick and efficient type of exercise, so it’s perfect for people with busy schedules. It is typically shorter in duration compared to other forms of exercise and usually takes between 10-30 minutes.
Is HIIT Suitable for Beginners?
HIIT can be done by beginners, but it’s a good idea to consult with a professional if you have concerns or an underlying medical condition. When planning your workout routine, it also helps to consider your fitness level. A certified fitness trainer can teach you the proper form and technique so you can reduce your risk of injury.
If you have limited experience exercising, start slow so you can get used to the workout. For example, you might begin with a shorter duration of high-intensity exercises and have longer rest periods. As you become more comfortable with the workout, you can gradually increase the intensity and decrease the duration of your rest periods.
Rest and recovery are also important, so ensure that you have enough rest days between HIIT workouts because overtraining can lead to injury and burnout.
The Benefits of High-Intensity Interval Training
HIIT can help save time and costs on your workout, without sacrificing on the health benefits! It can aid in weight loss, build muscle mass, and improve heart health. On top of these, this type of training can support your mental health.
Time and cost-efficient
A HIIT workout is short and intense, which makes it the perfect choice for people with busy schedules. Aside from that, the exercise can also be done anywhere, such as your home or a nearby park if you don’t want to go to the gym. This way, you can take quick breaks from work to do your workout.
Moreover, there are HIIT workouts that require little to no equipment. Common exercises such as push-ups, burpees, or squats are some examples. This means that it’s the perfect choice if you’re on a budget but want to start your fitness journey.
May promote weight loss
Excess weight leads to an increased risk of health conditions such as type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, sleep apnea, and coronary heart disease. That’s why so many people want to lose weight.
If you want to lose weight effectively, incorporating HIIT into your workout sessions can be beneficial. This is because according to research, HIIT can help burn more calories compared to weight training, using the treadmill, and cycling.
May help build muscle
Many people desire to build muscle because it can improve physical strength, enhance appearance, and boost athletic performance. Aside from weight training, HIIT might also be a good option if you’re looking to gain muscles.
In 2015 a study of the effects of HIIT on the performance of ice hockey players was done. It was found that the hockey players assigned to the HIIT group showed greater muscle thickness compared to the group that performed moderate-intensity cycling.
May help improve heart health
One of the goals of HIIT is to increase your heart rate through high-intensity movements. But aside from that, it can also promote your heart health. It’s important to take care of your heart because cardiovascular diseases are one of the main causes of death in the world.
In a 2015 study, it was found that HIIT helped cause improvements in blood lipids. Moreover, it improved insulin sensitivity and decreased abdominal fat.
May help improve mental health
Aside from your physical health, prioritizing your mental health is also important because it affects your overall quality of life. In general, exercise can help improve your mental health because physical activity can help enhance mood. HIIT is a good choice when it comes to experiencing the mental health benefits.
In a 2019 study investigating the effects of HIIT on people with mental health conditions, researchers found that HIIT helped improve mental health outcomes. Specifically, it helped reduce the severity of depression.
How Often Should You Do HIIT Workouts?
The frequency of your HIIT workouts will depend on your fitness goals, current fitness level, and the intensity of your workouts.
For example, if you’re a beginner, it’s recommended to incorporate one HIIT workout a week to allow your body to adapt.
It will also depend on how your body recovers because overtraining can lead to fatigue, increased risk of injury, and decreased performance. It’s important to listen to your body and pay attention to how it responds to the frequency of your HIIT.
If you want to know the right frequency of your HIIT workouts, it’s recommended to consult with a personal trainer or a fitness professional. They can help tailor your workouts depending on your specific needs.
HIIT Exercises That You Can Try at Home
There are plenty of exercises you can incorporate into a HIIT workout. Choose exercises that you are familiar with, especially if you are a beginner. For example, skipping rope, jumping jacks, squats, pushups, and situps are activities you can do at home.
Below are some ideas to get you started with HIIT:
- Push-ups: Try to do as many push-ups as you can in 15 seconds, then rest for 45 seconds.
- Jumping Jacks: Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, do as many jumping jacks as you can in 15 seconds, and end it with 45 seconds of rest.
- High Knees: Complete as many high knees as you can in 30 seconds, then rest for 10 seconds.
- Jump Rope: Jump as many times as you can in 40 seconds, and follow it up with 20 seconds of rest.
Below is an example of a HIIT plan you can do at home. Perform each exercise for 30 seconds and follow up with 30 seconds of rest. Try to complete all exercises and rest up to 2 minutes before repeating 2 more times. Remember that you can adjust the duration and number of rounds as needed:
- Warm up for 5 minutes
- Squats: Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, and squat with your chest up, and back straight. Stand up, then repeat.
- Knee pushups: Start in a plank position with your knees on the ground. Lower your chest by bending your elbows, and push back up. Repeat.
- Step-ups: Step into a low bench with one foot and bring the other foot up. Step back down and repeat, alternating legs.
- Plank: Position yourself in a plank, with your body in a straight line and forearms on the ground. Hold the position.
- Cool down for 5 minutes
How to Get Started (Tips for Beginners)
Do some research prior to your first HIIT session. You should learn the correct form for each exercise that you plan to do.
For example, a standard push-up requires your body to be straight from your head to your heels as much as possible. When you lower yourself to the floor , your elbows must bend at a 90-degree angle.
Another consideration is the right shoes for HIIT. Look for shoes that can handle high-impact moves. They need to have plenty of cushion and shock absorption features to protect your feet. Moreover, your footwear needs to provide enough grip, stability, and flexibility as you move through a variety of exercises.
Supplements are not essential for HIIT, but you might be looking for options — such as creatine monohydrate, caffeine, or a greens supplement — that support your fitness and health goals. Since the effectiveness and safety of supplements can vary, you need to consult with a healthcare professional before you use any supplement.
Once you’re ready, decide if you want to perform your HIIT workouts at home or at the gym. A personal trainer can help design the right HIIT program that aligns with your goals.
Always start your exercise with a warm-up, such as jogging or brisk walking. You can start with 10-15 minute sessions with 15 seconds of exercise to 45 seconds of recovery. As you build up your stamina, you can increase the duration of exercise and decrease the duration of the recovery.
As you perform the exercises, always pay attention to how your body reacts. The workout should be challenging but also doable.
Always end your HIIT sessions by cooling down through stretching or walking. Remember to stay hydrated and eat a post-workout meal that has carbohydrates and protein in it to aid recovery. Whole-grain bread with scrambled eggs or rotisserie chicken salad is a great choice.
Prioritizing your health is one of the most important things you can do. HIIT is an efficient way to reach your fitness goals because you can incorporate it in your busy schedule and do it anytime, anywhere.
Moreover, HIIT doesn’t require any special gym equipment because there are workouts that you can easily do at home. On top of these benefits, another reason to start HIIT is because of the health advantages it offers! So give HIIT a try and enjoy the results of your hard work.
- Falcone PH, Tai CY, Carson LR, et al. Caloric expenditure of Aerobic, Resistance, or Combined High-Intensity interval training using a hydraulic resistance system in healthy men. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. 2015;29(3):779-785. doi:10.1519/jsc.0000000000000661
- Naimo M, De Souza EO, Wilson JM, et al. High-intensity Interval Training Has Positive Effects on Performance In Ice Hockey Players. International Journal of Sports Medicine. 2014;36(01):61-66. doi:10.1055/s-0034-1382054
- Shepherd S, Wilson OJ, Taylor AS, et al. Low-Volume High-Intensity interval training in a gym setting improves Cardio-Metabolic and psychological health. PLOS ONE. 2015;10(9):e0139056. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0139056
- Martland R, Mondelli V, Gaughran F, Stubbs B. Can high intensity interval training improve health outcomes among people with mental illness? A systematic review and preliminary meta-analysis of intervention studies across a range of mental illnesses. Journal of Affective Disorders. 2020;263:629-660. doi:10.1016/j.jad.2019.11.039