HIIT has become an incredibly popular exercise in the last couple of decades. The benefits of HIIT are powerful, and will add variety to your fit plan.
Everywhere you look, there is yet another source praising HIIT for its effectiveness, usefulness, and applicability for the average person.
But what is HIIT? More importantly, what are the benefits of HIIT?
Today, we’ll answer these questions and more.
What Is HIIT And What Benefits Does It Offer?
High-intensity interval training (HIIT) is a modality where you do short and intense bursts of exercise, followed by periods of recovery. Interval running is a good example. With it, you run at a high intensity for 10 to 60 seconds, and then walk for a minute or two to catch your breath. You repeat that five to ten times, and that is your HIIT workout. It’s quick, efficient, super effective (1)!
With that said, let’s take a look at some of the benefits of HIIT:
The most apparent benefit of HIIT is that it’s time-effective and great for a tight schedule. So, if you can’t dedicate much time to exercise or if you have a busy day, condensing more work in less time is a great way to keep fit.
You can perform a simple HIIT workout in 10 minutes at the gym, outside in your neighborhood, and even inside your home. And a short HIIT workout will have much of the same training effect as a 20 or 30-minute jog.
Here is another great workout for the gym: HIIT at the Gym
The next fantastic benefit of HIIT is that you get to achieve the same results but in less time. Instead of, say, jogging for half an hour, you can have a 15-minute HIIT session and reap the same benefits in half the time. This is a powerful and popular benefit.
And after a good resistance training workout, you’re likely pretty tired. So instead of doing 40 minutes jogging on the treadmill to really burn some calories, do a 20 minute HIIT workout. It’s a really great workout, and it’s all you need after 30 minutes of resistance training. There’s also an option for simple HIIT workout that can be done in 10 minutes but has the same effect of a 30-minute cardio workout.
3. It Allows You to Burn Calories Even After You’re Done Training
HIIT offers what is known as the EPOC (excess post-exercise oxygen consumption) effect. This EPOC effect allows us to burn calories for hours after we’re done with the workout (2).
And this is one of the most powerful HIIT benefits, because your body is still in “furnace mode” after you leave the gym. Burning these calories on your drive to work. And you’ll feel better just knowing this powerful afterburner effect.
4. It Builds Muscle and Makes You More Athletic
Unlike low-intensity exercise such as jogging, HIIT workouts are a fantastic way to add muscle, push yourself to your limits, and become more athletic.
To understand a real-life example of this muscle-building benefit, look at the physique of a marathon runner. Now compare that to the physique of a 100-meter sprinter. High-intensity workouts lend a more conducive environment for building lean muscle.
5. It Brings About Many of the Same Health Benefits As Regular Cardio
Many people do cardio to reap health benefits. But, the truth is, HIIT brings many of the same health-elevating effects. More specifically:
- Weight loss
- More energy
- Stronger lung capacity based on a higher heart rate training zone
- Added motivation as you get better and better at HIIT
- Improved overall health
And many other benefits.
6. It’s Fun and Offers Variation to Your Workout Routine
Yes, this doesn’t sound as important as the other benefits, but it matters a lot. The truth is, if you look forward to each upcoming workout, you are more likely to stay consistent and work harder.
This itself is hugely important for your long-term fitness success. A big reason many people slowly fade away from their workout routines is that workouts can become boring and stale. Even people who see results and progress sometimes start to fade because they lose their excitement.
HIIT keeps things fresh, different, and offers brand new challenges.
Some Important Considerations for High-Intensity Interval Training
The benefits of HIIT are fantastic. But, there are also some things to be mindful of when doing high-intensity training:
Proper Warm-Up Prior to HIIT Is a Must
A proper warm-up is vital before any kind of exercise, and especially so before high-intensity interval training. The risk of injuries (such as pulling or straining a muscle) is higher, so you need to be incredibly mindful of your warm-ups.
When doing HIIT exercise, it’s a very good idea to do some dynamic stretching, do some light cardio for 5 minutes, then do additional stretching to ensure your muscles are fully warmed up.
It’s More Challenging to Master
If you’re a complete beginner who is looking to get into fitness, it’s probably a good idea to start with less intense activities to gain some experience. HIIT is demanding and more challenging to master, so you should only tackle it if you’re an experienced fitness person who is already in good shape.
Plus, it’s always a good idea to consult your doctor before trying HIIT.
Don’t Go From 0 to 100
Say that you want to try HIIT. The most common mistake most people make is to jump straight into the highest of intensities.
The problem is, by not giving your body enough time to get used to the stress, you’ll be at a much higher risk of overtraining and injuring yourself. And a workout injury can put you out of action for months.
So, instead, ease into any high-intensity program and have at least a few weeks to adjust.
Adequate hydration is a must. If you’re even mildly dehydrated, your muscles can cramp up painfully during HIIT. This is because fluids help your muscles contract and relax, while also keeping your cells hydrated and less irritable. So, drink plenty of liquids throughout the day, especially around your training.
As you train, you should replenish lost fluids regularly and continue drinking liquids (particularly water) even after you’re finished. The exact amount will depend on your diet, sex, activity level, climate, health, age, medications (if you’re taking any), and the amount that you sweat.
Click to return to more information on high-intensity interval training, better known as HIIT.
1. Wikimedia Foundation. (2020). Excess post-exercise oxygen consumption. Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Excess_post-exercise_oxygen_consumption.
2. Calvert, M., & Samuel, E. (2021). These 14 HIIT Workouts Will Make You Forget Boring Cardio. Men’s Health. https://www.menshealth.com/fitness/a25424850/best-hiit-exercises-workout/.