Although high-intensity interval training (HIIT) isn’t necessarily new, it has become increasingly popular over the past several years. Long, steady cardio sessions used to be the norm but, today, you’re more likely to find people pushing their limits in HIIT.
What, exactly, is HIIT and why is it attracting enthusiasts? It essentially is cardiovascular exercise (but can incorporate strength training) that uses shorter bursts of very rigorous intervals (such as sprints or burpees) with more moderate intensity intervals (such as jogging or riding a stationary bike). The duration of the intervals can range from 10 seconds to 2-5 minutes, and the overall workout typically lasts 4-60 minutes, depending on preferences and goals. A common formula for HIIT is a 2:1 ratio of work to recovery periods – i.e., 30 seconds of sprinting followed by 15 seconds jogging or walking.
A popular form of HIIT is Tabata, which is comprised of 20 seconds of ultra-intense exercise followed by 10 seconds of rest, repeated continuously for 4 minutes (8 cycles), and then can be performed again with different exercises for a sustained workout session.
You can perform HIIT in a group exercise class, with a trainer, using cardio equipment and weights or just on your own inside or outside with running and calisthenics.
High-intensity interval training is definitely not easy, and therefore delivers significant challenge to many exercisers. But it has been shown to work – which is why they keep coming back. Research shows that HIIT burns many calories and can help reduce body fat and boost metabolism – ideal for those seeking to lose weight. It also builds stamina and overall conditioning for improved athletic performance. And it’s ultra-efficient, so there’s no excuse for not squeezing in a workout.
For safety, however, you should NOT perform HIIT everyday. Vary high-intensity interval training workouts with steady-state cardio, strength training and other exercise like Pilates, yoga and more for optimal fitness.