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What Is HIIT & What Are The Benefits?

What is HIIT?

Designed to push you to your limits, high-intensity interval training is a popular training style for anyone who wants to push themselves and make significant progress towards their fitness goals with quick workouts.

This fast-paced style of movement will typically take you between 15-45 minutes per session and involves short, intense bursts of exercise, with brief rest periods in between each interval. Your rest period may involve a complete rest, or, if you have a higher fitness level or are looking to push yourself, it may be an active rest period that includes jogging or performing a boxer’s shuffle on the spot.

HIIT workouts can be entirely bodyweight workouts or they can use a variety of weights for an extra challenge, such as kettlebells, dumbbells, medicine balls or barbells. What kind of exercises are we talking about? Anything that can get your heart rate up, such as squat jumps, mountain climbers, burpees, box jumps or medicine ball slams, to name a few.

Any type of cardio exercise can be also done as a HIIT workout — including cycling, skipping, running or rowing. Simply set an interval timer and get started.

Because the idea is to work at your maximum effort during each working interval, HIIT workouts will elevate your heart rate significantly and make you feel out of breath! If this feeling is new to you, it can be uncomfortable, but if you want to reap the benefits the aim is to push yourself every round to a level that feels challenging for you.

According to the American Heart Association, vigorous activity is usually around 70-85% of your maximum heart rate, and you can calculate an estimate of your maximum heart rate by subtracting your age from 220.

What are the benefits of HIIT?

Given how popular HIIT has become (it’s Head Trainer Kayla Itsines’ signature style for a reason!), it’s no surprise there are plenty of benefits to be gained from this vigorous training style.

In a nutshell, HIIT can:

Increase VO2 max, cardiovascular fitness and stamina

Increase muscle mass and fast-twitch fibres

Increase speed, power, coordination and agility

Regulate glucose levels

Improve bone health

Improve mood and stress levels

Deliver you a challenging, fast-paced workout in a short period of time

Find out more below!

Increases VO2 max

HIIT works to improve your VO2max, which is the maximum rate at which your heart, lungs and muscles can effectively use oxygen during exercise. According to the University of Virginia’s School of Medicine, it is considered one of the best indicators of cardiorespiratory fitness.

A 2012 study on the effect of high-intensity interval training on cardiovascular function, VO2max, and muscular force found that even short-term bouts of HIIT (six sessions in total) dramatically improved VO2max in a test group of both men and women.

Increasing your VO2 max doesn’t only mean seeing a noticeable difference in your cardio fitness during your workouts, it means feeling fitter and more energetic in everyday life thanks to the overall improvement of your cardiovascular health.

Builds fast-twitch muscle

Fast-twitch muscle fibers are used in the explosive, powerful movements you find in HIIT and are important to maintain strength and a healthy metabolism. Slow-twitch muscle fibers are used during low-resistance endurance exercise.

Everyone has a different ratio of fast and slow-twitch muscle fibers, but the National Academy of Sports Medicine says power athletes have a higher ratio of fast-twitch fibers, whereas endurance athletes have more slow-twitch fibers.

According to the American Council on Exercise, including HIIT in your routine can help to engage and build your fast-twitch muscle fibers, helping to improve your performance during HIIT workouts, weight lifting, or forms of cardio that require a lot of power like sprinting.

Regulates blood glucose levels

A 2019 article published by the American Diabetes Association suggests that people suffering from pre-diabetes or type-2 diabetes may benefit from HIIT due to its effect on glycemic control.

High-intensity training can help to regulate your appetite hormones by increasing glucose metabolism and insulin sensitivity, helping to regulate blood glucose at healthy levels.

To ensure this training style is suitable for you, always follow the advice of your health professional.



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