What is High Intensity Interval Training?
High intensity interval training is becoming more and more popular, because of the results you can achieve by doing it. They are called HIIT workouts. With this type of training, you do bouts of high intensity effort followed by varied recovery times.
Achieving a Complete Exercise Program
A well-rounded exercise program includes aerobic exercise and strength training, but you do not necessarily have to do them in the same session. Both of these help maintain or improve your cardiorespiratory fitness (heart rate, breathing) and muscular fitness (strength). It also helps improve your overall health and function.
Regular physical activity provides more health benefits than irregular high intensity activity. You need at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise (where you are working hard but you can still hold a conversation) 5 days per week, or at least 20 minutes of high-intensity exercise 3 days per week. You can also do a combination of both moderate and high intensity exercise throughout the week, which is what I recommend.
Examples of Aerobic Exercises Include:
- Stair Climbing
- Cross-Country Skiing
You should do strength training at least 2 days per week, doing 8-12 repetitions of 8-10 different
exercises that target all major muscle groups. You can use your body weight, resistance bands, free weights, medicine balls, or weight machines.
While strength training, you can work at high intensities (80%-95% of max heart rate) for anywhere from 5 seconds to 8 minutes. Your recovery time should be equally as long as the work period, so if you work hard for a minute then you need to rest for a minute. Try to get your heart rate down as fast as you can during that recovery period. Making your heart rate get up high, then back down, then high again, and then back down is called intervals. You want to continue a workout like this for 20-50 minutes.
What Are The Benefits of HIIT?
HIIT training has been shown to improve:
- Aerobic and Anaerobic Fitness
- Blood Pressure
- Cardiovascular Health
- Insulin Sensitivity
- Muscle Mass while Losing Weight
Why is HIIT Training Getting So Popular?
People of all fitness levels can incorporate HIIT training into their fitness program. You can do HIIT workouts with anything, including cycling, walking, swimming, the elliptical, and in group exercise classes. HIIT workouts and continuous endurance workouts have very similar benefits, but you vcan do HIIT workouts in shorter time periods. This is because with HIIT workouts you burn more calories than in traditional workouts, especially after the workout.
The period after your workout is called “EPOC” (excess postexercise oxygen consumption). This period is usually about 2 hours after your workout, where your body is trying restore itself to where it was before you worked out (which uses more energy). Since HIIT workouts are so vigorous, the EPOC tends to be greater, which means you burn about 6% – 15% more calories.
How do You Develop a HIIT Exercise Program?
Duration, intensity, and frequency are important things to consider when you are developing a HIIT exercise program. You also need to consider the length of your recovery intervals.
Intensity during the high intensity work interval should be at least 80% of your max heart rate. It should feel hard or very hard, and you should be breathing heavy. It should be difficult to carry a conversation. The intensity of your recovery interval should be 40-50% of your max heart rate. The recovery should feel very comfortable so you can be ready for the next high intensity interval.
How Many Times a Week Can You do a HIIT Workout?
HIIT workouts are more exhaustive than steady state endurance workouts. This means you need a longer recovery period often. I would start with one HIIT workout a week, and do steady state workouts the rest of the week. When you feel ready for more of a challenge, then you can add a second HIIT workout a week, but spread them out. Do not do them 2 days in a row. HIIT has been a part of athletic training programs for many years, because many sports and recreational activities require short bursts of movement at high intensities.
Interval training is becoming a more recognized and well-liked method of training. If you incorporate interval training into your program, you will optimize your cardiorespiratory fitness and see improvements in your health.
Why Should You Stay Active?
Those who are physically active tend to live longer, healthier lives. Research has shown that moderate physical activity significantly contributes to longevity. If you have high blood pressure, diabetes, or a smoking habit, you can gain REAL benefits if you incorporate regular physical activity into your daily routine. Exercise can actually help you maintain a healthy diet and lose weight. It can help lower blood pressure, control blood sugar, improve cholesterol levels, and build stronger bones.
Before you begin an exercise program, take a fitness test! This Physical Activity Readiness Questionnaire (PAR-Q) will help determine if you’re ready to begin an exercise program.
- Has your doctor ever said that you have a heart condition or that you should participate in physical activity only as recommended by a doctor?
- Do you feel pain in your chest during physical activity?
- In the past month, have you had chest pain when you were not doing physical activity?
- Do you lose your balance from dizziness? Do you ever lose consciousness?
- Do you have a bone or joint problem that could be made worse by a change in your physical activity?
- Is your doctor currently prescribing drugs for your blood pressure or a heart condition?
- Do you know of any reason you should not participate in physical activity?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, if you are older than 40 and inactive, or if you are concerned about your health, consult a personal trainer or physician before increasing your physical activity. If you answered no to all the questions, then it is probably safe for you to begin exercising. Not all exercise programs are for everyone, and some programs may result in injury. You need to make sure the activities you do are at your own comfortable pace. Do not continue if you injure yourself.
Give HIIT a Try!
Live Well and Live On,