What’s the Best HIIT Workout for Obese People?

High intensity interval training, better known as HIIT, is gaining in popularity in the workout world these days, and for good reason. Many people prefer HIIT to regular steady-state cardio because the intensity of it is more exciting, and because you can burn calories in a shorter amount of time. HIIT is as difficult as it sounds, and it may scare people away who aren’t the exercising type. The great thing about it, however, is that you can incorporate the principles of HIIT into almost any exercise. As a beginner, you can ease into a high intensity interval training workout while avoiding any pain or injury that you may sustain if you jump straight into an advanced session.

Beginner’s HIIT Workout for Obese People

Before we dive in, we want to emphasize that not only is everyone’s body different, everyone has different lifestyles that may affect their performance in an endurance-based activity. If you’re a sedentary individual and rarely exercise, easing into a routine at a beginner level is your best bet. With that said, here is Fitness YouTuber Holly Honjo’s Plus Size HIIT Workout. Honjo prides herself on making her workouts accessible to “anyone who doesn’t fit the ‘norm’ in terms of exercising,” according to her “About” page.

This routine follows the alternating work/rest periods of HIIT, and allows you to make modifications so you can adjust it to your comfort level. Before you start, keep in mind that “HIIT isn’t always recommended for fat people, because of the intensity and impact the moves can have on joints, so I do advise you to go at your own speed,” according to Honjo. After a short warmup, do the following routine for three rounds. For every exercise, do 20 seconds of work, followed by a 10 second rest:

  1. Step back jack: Begin standing with your feet together and your arms by your side. Lunge back with one leg, reaching both arms up to the ceiling. Return to starting position, then repeat, alternating sides.
  2. Hamstring curve: Standing with your feet hip width apart, alternate raising each leg, bending your knee and bringing your heel to your butt. Hold for a few seconds, then release. You can hold onto a chair for extra support.
  3. Inchworms: Standing with your feet hip width apart, bend forward at your hips (bending your knees if needed) and place your palms on the mat. Inch your hands forward until you’re in a plank position. Inching backward, return to the starting position.
  4. Side jack: This one is similar to the step back jack, except you’re reaching your leg to the side, alternating between right and left leg.
  5. Hip swell: Begin standing with your feet shoulder width apart, then bring one leg off the ground (knee bent) in front of you. Move your leg to the side, then return to standing. Do this on alternating sides. You can also hold onto a chair for balance support in this exercise.
  6. Diagonal bends (right): Stand with your feet far apart and lift your arms up towards the sides of the room. Keeping your arms straight, hinge at your torso and bend to the right side. Return to the starting position, and repeat.
  7. Diagonal bends (left): The same, just on the left side.

Should Obese People Do HIIT?

As we emphasized before, HIIT is intense and you should modify it based on your ability and activity level. While some people strongly advise against doing HIIT if you’re obese, there are ways to make a HIIT workout more approachable so you’re safely exercising, but still burning calories. One Quora user recommends incorporating interval training techniques into swimming, biking, or using an elliptical — all of which are gentle on your joints, and don’t strain them like jumping or squatting might.

Rather than completely ruling out HIIT for obese people, we need to recognize that HIIT looks different for everyone. During HIIT workouts, we push ourselves to our max — people have varying endurance levels, and your threshold might be higher than someone else’s.

HIIT and Weight Loss

One of the most touted facts about HIIT is that it’ll help you burn calories faster than you would from doing regular cardio. In steady state cardio (e.g. running), you maintain the same heart rate over a sustained period of time, and often do it for longer than you would do a HIIT workout. HIIT, on the other hand, forces you to raise your heart rate as high as possible for a short amount of time, after which you recover for another short amount of time. This is a form of anaerobic exercise, because you use up all of your body’s oxygen.

After a HIIT workout, your body has an oxygen debt and your cells need to work harder to consume more. This process is called excess post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC), during which you continue burning calories (that’s right, after you’re finished with your workout!) in order to work to regain the lost oxygen. HIIT’s effects on the EPOC stage are greater than that of running or cycling at a steady pace because the intensity of a HIIT workout raises your metabolic rate.

HIIT workouts also don’t take very long, but provide a huge calorie burning pay-off. 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.

In conclusion, anyone, regardless of body type, can reap the benefits of HIIT. There are so many opportunities for modification, and infinite ways to incorporate interval training into your exercise routine. At first, as with anything, ease into HIIT to avoid unnecessary injury. We all start as beginners, and HIIT is no different.

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