HIIT: not just another trend in exercise land

HIIT – High Intensity Interval Training
by Sarah Joseph, M.S. Health Science

I know you’re probably thinking, “No time to work out? What?!.” Normally, I’m very against the “I don’t have time excuse” but in extreme situations, like mine as of late, I understand. What is the least amount of exercise that you can do and still get the health benefits?

Well my friends, sufficient activity is defined by the ACSM as 30 minutes of moderate activity 5 days per week, OR 20 minutes of vigorous activity 3 days per week, or some combination of the two. However, if you are already meeting these recommendations, MORE IS BETTER, to a point of course. So say you’re doing the 3 days per week 20 minutes vigorous, if you add a fourth day, you’re going to FURTHER reduce your risk for cardiovascular disease and other sedentary related diseases.

A great option for time effective workouts is high intensity interval training (HIIT). It’s been around for ages but has recently become more popular with exercise programs such as P90X, Insanity, and various other independent projects by fitness gurus. There is a reason why this type of training has become popular in highly motivated individuals and why you should try it too. You can google a list of reasons why you should try HIIT training but I’m going to try and give you some info that might not seem as obvious.

Beginners- Even beginners can try HIIT. The point of it is to try and complete as many repetitions of a certain exercise as you personally can during a given time period. If you are a beginner and the exercise is particularly challenging, it is possible that you may only be able to complete one repetition. But that’s totally okay! The important thing is that you write down your score and try to maybe do two repetitions next time so you continue to progress and increase your fitness. DO modifications, DON’T quit.

So let’s take a look at what a couple studies are saying about HIIT.
Tremblay, Simoneau, & Bouchard, (1994)-

  • Significant decrease in body fatness in a chronic study on apparently healthy sedentary individuals.
  • the decrease in body fatness was nine times greater in the high intensity interval training group in comparison to the continuous training group.
  • The exercise program used was rigorous
    • the participants in the HIIT group completed both CTand HIIT five days per week.
  • This method may be unrealistic for an obese population because of the exercise volume required.
  • These results suggest that HIIT is a viable option for fat loss in an obese people if this population can sustain the high intensities, and if the population can to adhere to the exercise.

Giabla, et al. (2006) – 2.5 hours of HIIT training over the course of 2 weeks produced comparable muscular biomechanical adaptations to 10.5 hours of continuous training

Talanian et al. (2006) – increase in whole body fat oxidation with HIIT in recreationally active women in only two weeks

Trapp et al. (2008) – young women in the interval training group had an average fat loss of 4.3% which was significantly greater than the continuous group regardless of the lesser exercise time.

As you can see, this is just a sliver of the magnitude of research that exists that says HIIT induces the same training adaptations as CT with decreased exercise time. In the busy world we live in, we need to save time where we can, but we also need to strive to be healthy. However, this type of training is hard. A lot of people do not want to do hard workouts. But if you can condition your body to understand that the difficulty of the workout is providing you with benefits in the long term, then you can begin to reap the toning, time saving, training benefits of HIIT training. Now let’s go do some burpees!

HIIT Toning workout:

Tabata Protocol

Tabata, a style of HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) or HIIE (High Intensity Intermittent Exercise), is a short intense workout that burns mega calories.  It can be used to train cardio, strength, pretty much anything.  And the best part?  In 20 minutes or less you can get a complete Total Body Workout.  Tabata started out in 1996 with a Speed Skating study done by Izumi Tabata.  The research proved a large gain in V02 Max, otherwise known as your ultimate fitness ceiling.  Unlike a HIIT style workout, Tabata has a Protocol of 20 seconds on and 10 seconds off.  This is repeated for a total of 4 minutes, then recovery.  These 4 minutes are considered one round.    And the rounds are manipulated to make the workout easier or harder.

Tabata Cardio workout:

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