As a Personal Trainer, I have researched the subject of exercise. A good approach to effective exercise is Interval Training. This research is what I hope will be a comprehensive review of High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) and its benefits for health. I anticipate to be covering a vast number of subjects under the banner of HIIT. Depending on your health goals, I believe HIIT will provide benefits that you just can’t get through continuous training like cycling/jogging/swimming at a set speed for an extended period. I will start by trying to give HIIT a definition.
What is HIIT?
HIIT consists of a period of all-out high intensity exercise followed by a rest or active recovery period. The high intensity to rest time varies, depending on the nature of the exercises and the participants’ fitness levels. The overall session generally consists of a warm-up period, followed by A HIIT interval session, and then finishing off with a full body stretch. The types of exercises can include:
- bear crawls
- High knees
- Push ups
- Plank variations
- Star jumps
- Leg raises
As you can see, the focus is on getting a full body workout, and is a great option if you want to become more physically active, increase your physical strength or if your overall goal is to lose weight. It is far more effective than continuous exercises like jogging, or cycling in a gym where you are mostly travelling at the same speed.
HIIT will help you burn more fat in less time
Many studies show that HIIT is great for weight loss. Although I am not a great fan of research studies, they do give a good indication as to whether or not there is some value in doing something rather than not. For me, people who run these studies are like a scientist describing what food tastes like by talking about ingredients. Nothing beats tasting. A study that compared the effects of HIIT and continuous training on fat loss using 45 participants. It was found that only the HIIT group experienced a significant loss in fat mass, compared to the continuous training group. I know from my experience that since starting HIIT, I have lost a considerable amount of body fat and gained some muscle mass in particular areas of my body.
But how much fat can I lose, I hear you ask?
In 2011, a study took place with 20 men and women and the results were that after 6 weeks, the HIIT group lost 12.4% of their fat mass compared to the continuous training group who only lost 5.8%. Quite a big difference, and they exercised for much less time.
HIIT reduces your appetite
On the subject of food, In a study, ten overweight men were placed in either a HIIT or continuous training group for four weeks. During the exercises, subjects were asked to rate their desire to eat using a visual analogue scale. Upon conclusion of the sessions, they were then presented with a buffet-style meal where subjects could eat as little or as much as they desired. Sounds like torture, right? It was like were saying “Hey guys I know you want to lose weight, and we just put you through some gruelling exercises, so here is as much food as you like. Eat while we stand here in our white coats assessing you”.
Anyway, the results found that the appetite and desire to eat decreased after HIIT, especially when it came to eating high fat food. Makes sense doesn’t it? I know I would definitely not want to eat high fat foods after I have done an intense workout.
HIIT will give you an improved fat burning potential
Several studies have taken place which demonstrate the fact that the more HIIT you do, the more your body creates mitochondria which is known as the cells ‘powerhouse’ or s that the more batteries you have, the more ability your body has to burn fat when it needs it the most. So once your body adapts by building more mitochondria, when you next do that all-out intensive exercise, the more fat you will burn.
HIIT helps you burn calories while you watch TV
After you complete your HIIT workout, you will burn more calories compared to continuous exercise like jogging. This is mainly because the extreme exertion puts your body in oxygen debt. Your body simply cannot replenish the oxygen by breathing harder. You see how out of breath you find yourself after the exercise? This is because your body is trying its best to get your body energy levels back to normal. It has to clear away all that lactic acid and other waste products your body has accumulated during exercise and this takes oxygen. Your body needs to use up its energy stores to do this, and this is fat. This function is called Excess Post Exercise Oxygen Potential (EPOC) otherwise known as the ‘After Burn’ effect.
High Intensity Interval Training will Improve your VO2 Max
What is VO2 max I hear you asking? Well, it is the maximum (the max in the word) volume the (v in the word) of oxygen (the O2) that your body can take in and use. Taking this into account will tell you how efficient your heart is at pumping blood, how much oxygen your body is taking in through the lungs and how much oxygen your muscles are using to create energy. As you can probably guess, this is a useful measurement to determine how fit you are. This study clearly shows that after 12 weeks of interval training, participants in this study found out that their VO2 peak increased by 46% compared to just 12% of those doing basic interval training.
HIIT will Improve your mood and give you Euphoric feelings
You don’t need to do drugs to get high. When you do HIIT, your body releases endorphins. The word endorphin is a combination of the words Endogenous which means produced in the human body or growing from within and morphine which is an opioid pain reliever. which are your bodies natural pain relievers released from the brain. This substance also creates a heightened sense of euphoria and well-being. It is also called runners high. It really boosts your well-being and has an effect similar to heroin the illegal opiate or morphine. Just exercise and you will feel the benefits. After starting HIIT, I can say that I get more of these feelings of euphoria compared to jogging, or just lifting weights.
HIIT is great for busy people
You can see amazing long term health benefits from just doing one HIIT session per week. You can see tremendous long term health benefits from HIIT if you just do it once per week. A study of 56,000 men and women free of heart disease after 16 years of follow up showed a reduced risk of heart disease from one just a single HIIT session per week. This study shows that if your goals are more to do with fitness maintenance and disease prevention, you just need one single 22.5 minute session per week.
Time to move from knowledge to action
It’s now time for you to move from head knowledge to physical action. Why not move right away and do a quick exercise? Here is a short and simple exercise plan I put together for one of my classes to get you active:
Exercise Circuit 1
Exercise Circuit 2
Exercise Circuit 3
40 Seconds active and 20 seconds rest