High-Intensity Interval Training
Exercising regularly is great. You have probably heard that a million times already, and in truth, you would probably hear it a million more times—that’s because it’s true. There are multiple reasons why people would want to exercise, including maintaining their physical fitness, as part of treatment for a disease condition, or just for leisure purposes. And there are various forms of exercise one can pursue, depending on their overall health, ability, and available time.
This article focuses on high-intensity interval training, what it is, as well as a few of its benefits.
What is High-intensity Interval Training?
High-intensity interval training, or HIIT, is one of the two main forms of cardio exercise.
Low-intensity steady-state cardio is the other type, which involves sustaining a particular exercise activity for an extended period, often without resting in-between sessions. Usually, this lasts for about 30 minutes or more, and these exercises are typically aerobic. This looks to be the more commonly used form of cardio training.
High-intensity interval training is an exercise routine that involves repeated cycles comprising very short bouts of very rigorous exercises with brief periods of rest or low-intensity exercises in between. These short, high-intensity bouts usually involve anaerobic exercises and require full or near-full effort.
Unlike the low-intensity, steady-state exercise routine, HIIT typically takes an average of 5 to 20 minutes. The amount of time spent usually depends on the person’s individual needs and their exercise capacity.
Benefits of HIIT
There are several benefits associated with doing HIIT. When compared to steady-state cardio using various metrics, HIIT has also been found to have advantages. Some are medically related, and others fall into the non-medical realm. Here are a few of these benefits:
1) It is convenient.
Unlike most steady-state cardio workouts that require gym equipment, that is not the case with HIIT exercises. Most of the time, all you need for HIIT is adequate space and a timer. So the workout can be done without having to go to the gym. This allows you to incorporate exercise routines right into your daily schedule.
2) It helps to burn extra calories.
Although HIIT requires less time, it is also an effective means of working off calories. In a review study comparing the effects of HIIT with a lower intensity exercise, it was demonstrated that even a few hours after HIIT workouts ended, an indicator of increased metabolism remained elevated. This means that calorie burning is still going on after the workout, which may help even more with weight control.
3) It improves blood flow.
There are certain diseases in which the vessels function poorly and less blood circulates to the body’s tissues and organs. HIIT has been shown to improve blood flow in patients with high blood pressure by relaxing the blood vessels and reducing blood viscosity. It also improves the heart’s ability to pump blood around the body.
4) It helps in blood glucose control.
In people with diabetes, there is an abnormally high level of glucose in the bloodstream due to a defect in the production of insulin, how it works, or both. This can damage tissues and organs in the body. HIIT has been shown to improve insulin sensitivity, thereby increasing its activity to better control blood glucose levels. This is very important in the treatment of diabetes and may play a role in its prevention.
5) It helps to improve endurance.
The maximal oxygen consumption (VO₂ max) is a measure of the maximum amount of oxygen the tissues can take up and use during very vigorous exercise. It is an important indicator of cardiac and respiratory fitness.
HIIT has been shown to improve VO₂ max in just 6 to 8 weeks. This effect then translates to better tolerance and stamina. It is also significant for people with cardiovascular diseases as it helps predict their survival and improves their quality of life.
6) It saves time.
When it comes to keeping up with exercise routines, one of the major obstacles for people achieving consistency is the time spent on workouts. HIIT involves short periods of intense exercise alternating with short rest intervals. This saves time, and these exercise routines don’t interfere with other activities like work. This helps people to stick with their workouts compared to other routines that require more time.
People doing HIIT may also find they get at least as many or more benefits from doing this type of exercise compared to steady-state cardio. Thus, with the minimal time requirement and the increased frequency, it can be said that HIIT is time-efficient for improving health.
7) It helps in blood pressure control.
Exercise plays a vital role in reducing and maintaining a healthy blood pressure. It has been shown that HIIT significantly reduces blood pressure in people with hypertension, even without the use of medications. This makes it an efficient technique that can be adopted with physician supervision in the management of hypertension.
8) It improves sleep quality.
People who experience problems sleeping often look for medications to help them get a good night’s sleep. Various studies have shown that HIIT sessions lasting more than 16 minutes and continued for over 8 weeks improved sleep quality. This makes it a great alternative for the drug treatment of certain sleep disorders.
9) It improves mental function.
The benefits of HIIT on the body aren’t limited to just physical health alone. It has also been shown to play a role in the brain. Performing HIIT routines has been linked with the formation of brain-derived neurotrophic factor. This substance helps in the production of new brain cells as well as the support of existing ones, thereby contributing to improved mental function.
10) It improves quality of life.
As previously pointed out above, HIIT is effective in the regulation of blood pressure, blood glucose levels, and body weight.
It also improves overall endurance and fitness. The combination of all these effects helps to protect against cardiovascular and metabolic diseases like diabetes, hypertension, stroke, and heart failure, which enhances an individual’s quality of life (and probably its length, too!).
Requirements For HIIT
There are no special requirements to participate in HIIT. No special prior workout experience is needed, and most exercises can be done without any major gym equipment.
Types of Exercises in HIIT
One great thing about HIIT is the amount of flexibility that it allows. A wide variety of exercises are possible, depending on what you want and what you’re comfortable doing. The most important thing is that it should be an exercise that you can do as intensely as possible for the duration of those short bursts.
Some of the simple exercises you could try out are:
– Jumping ropes
– Jumping jacks
How To Do HIITs
Before the start of a HIIT session, you need to decide on the type of exercise you want to do. Preferably, this should be one you would enjoy.
First, a light warm-up routine can be done to get ready.
Start your exercise, making sure you have a timer to monitor the time spent on working and resting.
– Target short bursts of 20 to 60 seconds.
– Target a work-rest ratio of between 1:1 and 1:2. So, for every 30 seconds of work, the rest period can be between 30 and 60 seconds.
– Repeat this cycle, ensuring your total workout time doesn’t exceed 20 minutes to prevent injuries.
Other Helpful Tips
– HIIT has been linked to an increased risk of various degrees of injuries to muscles and joints. Many of these are caused by excessive training. To prevent this, it is important to do the exercises in moderation.
– HIIT should also be done with caution by people with cardiac failure and coronary artery disease.
– Adequate rest periods between bursts should be taken. Rest is paramount during and after workout sessions to prevent burnout, and a day or two should be set aside for full body recovery.
HIIT has many benefits when compared to other exercise routines, and it is pretty convenient and doesn’t require a lot of time. It is a great option for people looking to lose weight, maintain fitness, and regulate their blood sugar and also as part of the management of certain cardiovascular diseases. It is recommended that people with medical conditions, including cardiovascular (e.g., coronary artery disease, hypertension), metabolic (e.g., diabetes), and respiratory diseases (e.g., asthma, COPD), have a discussion with their doctors before beginning HIIT.
The results and benefits of HIIT may not be evident right at the start, but with just a few weeks of consistent workouts, you are sure to start seeing and feeling these benefits.