HIIT may provide the same health benefits as regular exercise in less time by helping increase calorie burn and reduce body fat, heart rate, and blood pressure. It may even help improve blood sugar levels and insulin sensitivity.
While most people know that physical activity is healthy, it’s estimated that about 20% of people worldwide don’t get enough of it each day.
In fact, in the United States alone, that number is more like 80%.
Unless you have a physically demanding job, a dedicated fitness routine is likely your best bet for getting active.
However, many people feel that they don’t have enough time to exercise.
If this sounds like you, maybe it’s time to try high intensity interval training (HIIT).
“HIIT” is a broad term for workouts that involve short periods of intense exercise alternated with recovery periods.
One of the biggest advantages of HIIT is that you can get maximal health benefits in minimal time.
This article explains what HIIT is and examines 7 of its top health benefits.
What is high intensity interval training?
HIIT involves short bursts of intense exercise alternated with low intensity recovery periods. Interestingly, it is perhaps the most time-efficient way to exercise.
Typically, a HIIT workout will be 10–30 minutes in duration.
Despite how short the workout is, it can produce health benefits similar to twice as much moderate-intensity exercise.
The actual activity being performed varies but can include sprinting, biking, jumping rope, or other bodyweight exercises.
For example, a HIIT workout using a stationary bike could consist of 30 seconds of cycling as fast as possible with high resistance, followed by several minutes of slow, easy cycling with low resistance.
This would be considered one “round” or “repetition” of HIIT, and you would typically complete 4–6 reps in one workout.
The specific amount of time you exercise and recover will vary based on the activity you choose and how intensely you are exercising.
Regardless of how you implement this strategy, high intensity intervals should involve short periods of vigorous exercise that make your heart rate speed up.
HIIT not only provides the benefits of longer-duration exercise in a much shorter amount of time but also may provide some unique health benefits.
1. HIIT can burn a lot of calories in a short amount of time You can burn calories quickly using HIIT.
One study compared the calories burned during 30 minutes each of HIIT, weight training, running, and biking.
The researchers found that HIIT burned 25–30% more calories than the other forms of exercise.
In this study, a HIIT repetition consisted of 20 seconds of maximal effort followed by 40 seconds of rest.
This means the participants were actually exercising for only one-third of the time that the running and biking groups were.
Although each workout session was 30 minutes long in this study, it is common for HIIT workouts to be much shorter than traditional exercise sessions.
This is because HIIT allows you to burn about the same number of calories but spend less time exercising.
HIIT may help you burn more calories than traditional exercise or burn the same number of calories in a shorter amount of time.
2. Your metabolic rate is higher for hours after HIIT exercise
One of the ways HIIT helps you burn calories actually comes after you’re done exercising.
Several studies have demonstrated HIIT’s impressive ability to increase your metabolic rate for hours after exercise.
Some researchers have even found that HIIT increases your metabolism after exercise more so than jogging or weight training.
The same study also found that HIIT could shift the body’s metabolism toward using fat for energy rather than carbs.
Due to the intensity of the workout, HIIT can elevate your metabolism for hours after exercise. This results in burning additional calories even after you have finished exercising.
3. HIIT can help you lose fat
Studies have shown that HIIT can help you lose fat.
One review looked at 13 experiments and 424 adults with overweight or obesity.
Interestingly, it found that both HIIT and traditional moderate-intensity exercise can reduce body fat and waist circumference.
A range of other studies also indicate that HIIT can reduce body fat despite the relatively short time commitment.
However, like other forms of exercise, HIIT may be most effective for fat loss in people with overweight or obesity.
High intensity intervals can produce similar fat loss to traditional endurance exercise, even with a much smaller time commitment. They can also reduce waist circumference.
4. You might gain muscle using HIIT
In addition to helping with fat loss, HIIT could help increase muscle mass in certain people.
However, the gain in muscle mass is primarily in the muscles being used the most, often those in the trunk and legs.
Additionally, increases in muscle mass are more likely to occur in people who were less active to begin with.
Some research in active people has failed to show higher muscle mass after HIIT programs.
Weight training continues to be the gold standard form of exercise to increase muscle mass, but high intensity intervals could support a small amount of muscle growth.
If you are not very active, you may gain some muscle by starting HIIT, but not as much as you would if you engaged in weight training.
5. HIIT can improve oxygen consumption
Oxygen consumption is your muscles’ ability to use oxygen. Endurance training is typically used to improve your oxygen consumption.
Traditionally, this consists of long sessions of continuous running or cycling at a steady rate.
However, it appears that HIIT can produce the same benefits in a shorter amount of time.
One study found that participants who performed 20-minute HIIT workouts 4 days per week for 5 weeks improved their oxygen consumption by 9%.
This was almost identical to the improvement in oxygen consumption in the other group in the study, who cycled continuously for 40 minutes per day, 4 days per week.
Another study found that 8 weeks of exercising on the stationary bike using traditional exercise or HIIT increased oxygen consumption by about 25%.
Once again, the total time spent exercising was much different between groups: 120 minutes per week of traditional exercise versus only 60 minutes per week of HIIT.
Additional studies also demonstrate that HIIT can improve oxygen consumption.
High intensity interval training can improve oxygen consumption as much as traditional endurance training, even if you exercise only about half as long.
6. HIIT can reduce heart rate and blood pressure
HIIT may have important health benefits as well.
A large amount of research indicates that it can reduce heart rate and blood pressure in people with overweight and obesity, populations in which high blood pressure is common.
One study found that 8 weeks of HIIT on a stationary bike decreased blood pressure as much as traditional, continuous endurance training in adults with high blood pressure.
In this study, the endurance training group exercised 4 days per week for 30 minutes per day, and the HIIT group exercised only 3 times per week for 20 minutes per day.
Some researchers have found that HIIT may even reduce blood pressure more than the frequently recommended moderate-intensity exercise.
However, it appears that high intensity exercise does not typically change blood pressure in people in the “normal” BMI range who have normal blood pressure.
HIIT can reduce blood pressure and heart rate, primarily in people with overweight or obesity who also have high blood pressure.
7. HIIT can reduce blood sugar
HIIT programs lasting less than 12 weeks can reduce blood sugar.
A summary of 50 studies found that HIIT not only reduces blood sugar but also improves insulin resistance more than traditional continuous exercise.
Based on this information, it is possible that high intensity exercise is particularly beneficial for those at risk for type 2 diabetes.
In fact, some experiments specifically in people with type 2 diabetes have demonstrated the effectiveness of HIIT for improving blood sugar.
However, research in healthy people indicates that HIIT may be able to improve insulin resistance even more than traditional continuous exercise.
High intensity interval training may be especially beneficial for those needing to reduce blood sugar and insulin resistance. Research has found these improvements in people with and without diabetes.
HIIT improves aerobic and anaerobic performance
While its health benefits are very important, HIIT also improves performance in both anaerobic and aerobic activities.
Whether you’re an athlete or a weekend warrior or you just enjoy running around with your kids, HIIT training will improve your performance during these tasks with just a few short sessions per week.
How to get started with HIIT
There are many ways to add high intensity intervals to your exercise routine, so it isn’t hard to get started.
To begin, you just need to choose your activity (running, biking, jumping rope, etc.).
Then, you can experiment with different durations of exercise and recovery, or how long you’re performing intense exercise and how long you’re recovering.
The following tips can help you create your own killer HIIT routine:
Here are a few simple examples of HIIT workouts:
While these examples can get you started, you can modify your routine based on your preferences.
There are many ways to implement HIIT into your exercise routine. Experiment to find which routine is best for you.
The bottom lineHigh intensity interval training is a very efficient way to exercise and may help you burn more calories than you would with other forms of exercise.
Some of the calories burned as a result of high intensity intervals come from a higher metabolism, which lasts for hours after exercise.
Overall, HIIT produces many of the same health benefits as other forms of exercise in a shorter amount of time.
These benefits include decreases in body fat, heart rate, and blood pressure. HIIT may also help lower blood sugar and improve insulin sensitivity.
So, if you’re short on time and want to get active, consider trying high intensity interval training.
Most people use the gym to perform a lot on the same basic bilateral movements. “Bilateral” movement is performed with the body squared up using both arms and legs at the same time. Think bench press, pull up and squats. However, there are virtually almost no actual challenges in daily life or sport that are bilateral in nature. Real life requires extensive lateral and rotational movement.
Training lateral and rotational exercises in the gym can improve safety and strength in daily movements and is critical for transference to torso stability, gait, jumping, running, climbing stairs, getting into your car, throwing a ball, picking up a child, and so on for every functional movement situation. Therefore you should consider integrating rotational and lateral based exercises into your program to get the most benefit from your time spent working out.
These exercise choices can also better prepare the body for more functional and even survival scenarios like shoveling snow, carrying someone to safety, climbing out of a dangerous situation or many, many other scenarios that life presents which we are not prepared for if we only do squats and presses.
Here is a list of performance and general activity pluses from rotational exercises:
Global Core Functionality: The core is technically defined as everything that stabilizes the spine, shoulder girdle and hip complex not just spinal stability. Rotational exercises are far superior to challenge and strengthen this stacked complex of gyroscopic elements than basic exercises focused just on pumping actions. The human body is capable of deep, dynamic rotational ranges and requires them as ongoing challenges to stay healthy and effective.
Hip mobility: Rotational movements also help open-up and strengthen the dynamic hip muscle complex which tightens after training in restricted/bi-lateral planes of motion or weakens from the lack of challenge found with hinge-only exercises.
Low back health: Rotational exercises strengthen your low back which helps prevent lower back issues in the future. This is because the fascia, particularly the thoraco-lumbar fascia is only developmentally challenged by full ROM rotations, ambulation and contralateral movements.
Reduce chance of injury: Rotational exercises of the torso and hips can reduce a chance of injury when you are pulling, lifting and pushing in real life. It is because a strong muscle, fascia and connective tissue collective working together is less likely to result in body injury than a group of loosely connected, over strong muscle pumps.
Improved Performance in Sports: Strong rotational abilities and strength can benefit your ability to perform better in sports which all include dynamic rotation to succeed and stay healthy. Examples of rotation based sports are golfing, volleyball, basketball, football, baseball, skiing, snowboarding, tennis – oh yeah, all sports! Again, bilateral muscle pumpers do not address these needs which leaves results up to genetics.
Scoliosis benefits: Scoliosis is a medical condition in which the spine curves between 10 and 45 degrees, with some cases even more. Orthopedics studies showed that performing torso rotation exercises can stop the curve from getting worse and in some cases also correct spinal curvature. It is because the isolated strengthening of the muscles that rotate the torso improves the weaker side and when we toss in the right lateral flexion exercises we also adjust the Quadratus Lumborum one of the root causes of Scoliosis.
“I’m just not an exercise person.” “I don’t really like to work out.” “I’m not into the whole gym thing.” I hear these things all the time from people who are out of shape and just can’t get motivated to start a fitness program. Most of these people have a strong desire to lose weight, to look better, to FEEL better and to be healthy. Who doesn’t want to look better, feel better and be healthier? Don’t you? Do you use excuses like these? Don’t allow excuses like these to hold you back from achieving your goals.
These negative thoughts can keep you from ever starting on the fitness program that can literally change your life because you have already decided that you “don’t like it.”
Many people think that the “fit people” love to exercise and that they pop out of bed every morning anxious to go lift weights or run or whatever they do to achieve their fit and healthy physiques. I’m here to tell you that it’s just not true. While it may be true in some cases, most of us “fit” people would rather be getting an extra hour of sleep, watching some TV or doing just about anything but exercising.
Exercise is work! Sometimes it is hard work, sometimes it is not such hard work, but it is work either way, and work is not something that most of us are looking to do more of!
The difference is that the fit people focus on the payoff, the trophy, the prize. We know that a great feeling of accomplishment and pride awaits us. We focus on the feel-good flow of endorphins that comes towards the end of a great workout. We focus on the goal of feeling proud at the beach rather than embarrassed. We focus on hearing the doctor give us a great bill of health rather than a concerned look and a prescription. We focus on how good it feels when your significant gives you “that look” again.
Don’t wait until you “like” exercise or become an “exercise person.” You become an exercise person by starting and doing it because you know that the payoff of a healthy fit body that looks good and feels even better is waiting for you. You will eventually look forward to your workouts, not because you love to squat or do crunches, but because you love the way that your backside looks after a few months of squats and how great it feels to have a firm, flat stomach.
That is something worth suffering a little bit for! Even better than the way you will look is the way that you will FEEL. Nothing feels better than looking good.
Harness the power of planking in your fitness routine
Whether you want six-pack abs or content for your social media channel (#PlankChallenge, anyone?), plank exercises are equal parts fun trend and health mainstay.
“A plank is when you hold your body in a straight and in-line position like a plank of wood,” says exercise physiologist Katie Lawton, MEd. And when done correctly, it leads to a host of health benefits.
5 plank benefits
While the promise of getting a six-pack from planks may be overblown (Lawton says that’s more diet-related), they still offer many benefits, including:
Planking is free and takes only a couple of minutes — no gym membership or special equipment required. “You can do it anywhere,” Lawton says.
2. Protects your back
The ability to brace your core is important for many everyday activities. “Our core needs to be strong to protect the spine when doing things that can cause back pain, such as lifting your child up or leaning forward to unload the dishwasher,” she says.
3. Prevents exercise-related injuries
Squatting, dead-lifting and pressing overhead without injury is hard to do without a strong core. “We need to keep our spine straight to do these exercises. Planking provides you with better core strength to be able to brace during these movements,” Lawton says.
4. Improves posture
While Lawton says planking alone won’t improve your posture, muscle memory might. “If you can remember to brace your core throughout the day, it can help keep your lower back in a position where you’re standing or sitting up straighter.”
5. Boosts mental health
“Exercise can have a positive effect on our mental health,” Lawton says. “When you see yourself getting stronger, it can be encouraging. It’s also important to breathe while you plank to further engage your core muscles. Some breathing techniques can help boost your mood.”
What muscles do planks work?
Plank exercises work your core muscles, which are located between your pelvic floor and diaphragm. The area is also known as your trunk. These muscles support your movements and stabilize the spine.
Core muscles include:
How to do a plank
To do a traditional high plank, get in a pushup position and hold, with your body lifted off the ground. For proper form, make sure your:
How long should you hold a plank?
“Hold a plank for about a minute before you start advancing,” Lawton says. “Once you can do three sets of one minute in a modified plank exercise, then progress to the low plank. If you start off at three sets of 30 seconds in a low plank, try to hold it longer and longer as the weeks go by. Same thing with the high plank.”
To reap the maximum benefits, Lawton recommends:
What about side planks?
Not to be neglected, your obliques have a plank exercise designed just for them. To do a side plank:
Need help with planking?
Plank exercises provide an almost endless variety of ways to strengthen your core muscles. But with so many options, you may wonder where to start.
“Personal trainers are a great resource when you start an exercise program. They are well-educated about planks and how to progress people to more challenging movements,” Lawton says. “If you have a history of back pain, your physical therapist is another great option. They can give you good guidance about how to do a plank safely.”
Is your back strong enough? While many of us consider ourselves to be fitness-minded people, back fitness is something that’s largely overlooked. It takes a strong back to lead a strong life! In fact, a weak back is one of the most common causes of back pain and injury. The good news is that back exercises can strengthen the back, insulate the body against some common injuries and help us to enjoy healthier lives. Take a look at the benefits of back exercises.
Here’s What the Sedentary Lifestyle Is Doing to Our BacksThere’s a back crisis that nobody is talking about enough! If you work at a desk, there’s a good chance that your back is already suffering. Here’s a look at what happens to the back when you live a sedentary lifestyle:
While everyone needs to focus attention on their backs, people who work long hours behind desks and computer screens need to be particularly vigilant about stretching their backs properly at regular intervals. Regular stretching should also be accompanied by back-focused strength exercises several times per week. Even people who aren’t suffering from back pain yet may find that integrating back exercises into their workouts allows them to increase lean mass in the body to boost weight loss and wellness efforts! This is often a “missing key” that people don’t realize can allow them to burn more fat even when they’re not exercising.
A 2019 study that looked at back pain among 64 employees at a call center who spent the majority of their working hours sitting sheds some light on just how dire the situation is for most people in the workforce today. Within the study group, 75 percent reported some level of chronic or acute back pain. Researchers were able to conclude that there is a strong association between prolonged sitting behaviors and lower-back pain.
A Deeper Look at the Benefits of Strengthening Your BackIt’s important to remember that a strong back equals a strong spine. This is so important because the spine plays a role in supporting our entire musculoskeletal system. Any sort of misalignment or blockage in the spine can create symptoms that spread throughout the entire central nervous system. When we strengthen our back muscles, we’re helping to keep our spinal joints free from blockages and restrictions. This can help to take some of the stress and tension off of our delicate spines.
Breathing BenefitsOne of the more surprising benefits of doing back exercises is that it can actually help to improve breathing! Proper breathing can help with everything from increasing focus to boosting mood. Here’s a look at the connection between a strong back and healthier breathing:
Spinal BenefitsA strong back can help to improve spinal alignment. Unfortunately, doing everyday tasks without properly stretching can cause your muscles to begin to “draw up” to create asymmetry. This means that the body is pulled to one side based on your movements. The spine then follows in the same direction. This results in a misaligned spine. When we focus on strengthening the back, we learn to make even, balanced movements that draw the muscles and spine into balance.
Better FlexibilityBack exercises boost flexibility and range of motion. When we focus on making our backs work as effectively as possible, we’re ensuring that every movement we make is a careful movement that allows our muscles to move naturally without restriction. Lack of flexibility is one of the biggest causes of injury! Working on flexibility through stretching and building strength decreases the likelihood of muscle pulls or tears.
Relief for Back PainStrengthening the back is often the antidote to back pain. When you have a weak back, the clock is ticking until your back is injured. While you may be at the point where a weak back has already caused pain, it’s still important to work on back strength when bouncing back from a back injury. Creating a strong, healthy back enables the body to heal itself by relieving tension caused by compensating for back weakness. In addition to healing your back, back stretches and exercises can “save” other parts of your body before they endure the same painful fate as your back due to the way you’re relying on other muscles and tendons to compensate for a weak back.
DetoxificationBack exercises are great for detoxifying the body! In fact, issues like stress, headaches, reduced immune response, and general body pain could all be tied to a tight, weak back. Back exercises focused on stretching are especially effective for detoxifying the body. When we stretch, our blood flow increases. This creates a cascade of oxygen-rich blood rushing through our bodies to reach the muscles and organs that may not get much oxygen when we’re stuck doing something like sitting behind a desk for long hours every day. That oxygen also reaches the brain to create a sudden “brain boost.” As the oxygen populates the body, various toxins that have built up in the body’s soft tissue while you were sitting still are dissipated.
What Type of Exercise Helps to Strengthen the Back?There are many common, everyday exercises that offer big back benefits! For instance, yoga has many poses that are focused on the back. Many people also find that weightlifting and strength training offer advantages for strengthening the back. Rowing, pull-ups, and pull-downs are all common back exercises.
Of course, there is a balance. Doing too many new exercises too quickly without proper guidance can actually strain the back. What’s more, some people have preexisting back issues that they aren’t aware of when they start new workout routines. An exercise that may work for someone without a specific back issue could create a serious injury for someone with an undiagnosed back issue. If you’re ready to learn more, book your appointment today!