High-intensity interval training (HIIT) involves short bursts of rigorous cardio, followed by intermittent rest periods. Although challenging, because it requires you to push yourself to the limit, HIIT can have a positive impact on your body and doesn’t require much time. It’s grown in popularity within the past couple of years because scientific studies are constantly discovering the benefits of HIIT as compared to other types of core exercises. In this post, we’ll explain eight benefits of high-intensity interval training.
Because you don’t necessarily need equipment to do a HIIT workout, you can do it anytime, anywhere. This is another reason why HIIT workouts have become so popular — anyone can do them. You can adapt your HIIT workout based on time constraints, space restraints, and based on what equipment you have at hand. While you can incorporate exercise machines or equipment into your workout, they are by no means required. It’s easy and inexpensive to incorporate HIIT into your workout routine, as you don’t need to worry about spending money on expensive exercise equipment. Once you do incorporate HIIT into your routine, you can consider enhancing your workout with a jump rope or kettlebells.
If you find that you barely have time to fit exercise into your busy schedule, high-intensity interval training is made for you. One of the best parts of HIIT workouts is that you can make them as long or as short as you want, and you can burn calories quickly. HIIT workouts are one of the most efficient ways to burn calories fast, even more so than steady-state cardio like running.
Personal trainer Pete McCall tells Health Magazine that longer is not always better, especially when it comes to HIIT workouts — aim for a duration of 15 to 30 minutes, otherwise you’ll overwork yourself. But how can you burn so many calories in such a short amount of time? You burn so many calories because of the “high-intensity” aspect of HIIT. Although it takes a shorter amount of time than a regular workout, it is a very challenging form of exercise that requires you to push yourself to the limit.
That’s right! It seems too good to be true, but after a HIIT workout your body continues to burn calories; this phenomenon is called excess post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC). After an intense workout, your body continues to burn calories in order to heal (and build!) your worn out muscles. To maximize the effect of EPOC, make sure to properly hydrate and eat nutritious foods after your workout. When your body is healing, it needs all nutrients it can get.
A 2019 review comparing different types of exercise found that people who did HIIT workouts lost on average 28.5% more fat than those who did steady-state cardio (e.g. running). And because you continue burning calories for up to 24 hours after a HIIT workout, you continue to burn fat.
HIIT workouts also have a positive effect on your metabolic rate. One study suggests that only two minutes of high-intensity exercise has the same effect on your metabolism as 30 minutes of running, over the next 24 hours.
Because you can incorporate so many types of exercise into a HIIT workout, high-intensity interval training allows you to work out many different muscle groups. From squats to burpees to planks, your HIIT workout routine gives you the opportunity to work out your entire body. It’s also said that while you may lose muscle from steady-state cardio when you’re dieting and trying to lose weight, HIIT helps you gain muscle.
With increased oxygen and blood flow, your endurance and ability to exercise longer increases, as well as your muscles’ ability to consume oxygen. We often associate activities like running or rowing with endurance, but HIIT has the same effect as endurance training (e.g. running, cycling) on your oxygen consumption — and this effect is achieved in a shorter amount of time. One study compared two groups of people, one of which cycled for 40 minutes four days a week, and the other of which did a 20 minute HIIT workout four days a week. Amazingly, both groups’ overall increase in oxygen consumption was practically the same, about 9%.
Like state-state cardio, high-intensity interval training is proven to lower blood pressure, especially in overweight individuals who may have higher blood pressure. Blood pressure becomes lower the more intensely you exercise, and researchers have noted HIIT’s efficacy in lowering it. A recent study concluded that “a HIIT exercise bout is superior to an equivalent bout of continuous exercise” for lowering blood pressure.
Lastly, HIIT workouts have been proven to lower blood sugar, which can be extremely beneficial to people with diabetes. While any physical activity “improves the regulation of glucose homeostasis”, a 2015 study determined that HIIT is more effective in doing so than regular exercise, in both diabetic and healthy individuals.
As with any type of exercise, high-intensity interval training is extremely beneficial to your health and well-being. It’s a perfect workout for anyone who doesn’t have time for long workouts or people who simply just want to get it over with. It can also be more exciting and stimulating than a run because of its challenging pace.
Plus, you can switch up your workout as much as you want for more variety. High-intensity interval training is easy to incorporate into almost any type of exercise, so it’s extremely versatile. If you’re up for a challenge and ready to push yourself to the next level, try out a HIIT workout next time you’re planning to exercise. Stay posted as we continue to explore the benefits of HIIT workouts in the coming weeks.