As far as our over all health and fitness is concerned, it’s probably safe to say that many of us probably don’t do all that we can to ensure that we’re as fit and as healthy as we can possibly be. For many of us, the thought of eating bland, low fat food(current recommendations of the USDA), and then heading to the gym to spend an hour or so on a treadmill, staring at the same four walls, following the same training routine, week in and week out, will probably fill us with feelings of dread and despair. If this applies to you however, then never fear, because there’s another form of training (and eating but that’s for another time)that is growing in popularity by the day, known as High Intensity Interval Training, or HIIT for short, and it’s this form of training which we’ll be focussing on in this article.
What is HIIT and how does it work? – Basically, HIIT is a form of specialised training, which involves alternating between periods of high intensity, and low intensity exercise. Because this specialised form of training involves pushing yourself, and indeed your body, through periods beyond the upper half of your specific aerobic exercise zone, it’s believed to offer a number of advantages when compared to lower intensity forms of exercise and training, including steady state cardio for example (think of an hour on the elliptical reading a magazine). As far as examples of just how beneficial this form of exercise actually is, one article published by the NY times, mentions the fact that a number of healthy young men and women were actually divided into groups by scientists at McMaster University in Ontario, where they were then asked to participate in HIIT sessions, and uninterrupted continuous sessions. The results found that after six weeks, those who took part in the HIIT training, showed signs of increased muscle mass and blood levels inside the muscles, as well as an increased endurance capacity of almost 11 percent, when compared to those who participated in the steady state sessions. Further evidence of these findings can be found here, in this study published by ‘experimental physiology’.
What is a typical example of a HIIT workout? – Experts believe that HIIT offers users a number of advantages when compared to regular exercise, including the fact that it conditions and trains both your aerobic and anaerobic energy systems. It’s also believed to speed up fat loss, and boost metabolism as well. Finally, it’s decidedly quicker than other forms of training and is over in less than half the time of a regular workout. Here’s an example of a typical HIIT session performed using a treadmill:
- Start by walking on a treadmill at a steady but easy pace for between 90 and 120 seconds.
- After these 90 – 120 seconds have passed, the speed of the treadmill will then be increased dramatically, where the subject will then sprint as fast as they can, using maximum exertion, for between 30 and 45 seconds (as hard as you can).
- After the 30 – 45 seconds have passed, the subject will then slow down the speed of the treadmill, and walk at a steady pace for a further 90 – 120 seconds once again.
- The process will then be repeated for between 7 – 11 rounds on average, with the end of each sprinting session signalling the end of one round.
- The next round will commence as soon as a subject begins walking at a steady pace once more.
Is HIIT for me?-HIIT could be a good addition to your workout routine but you want to make sure you do a nice warm up before and a cool down after. HIIT has many advantages but it’s not for everyone. If you are a beginner, you should build an exercise base before considering HIIT. HIIT should not be done more than once a week when you first start or when combined with other forms of exercise. Some people will do up to four HIIT sessions a week but this can cause a significant stress on the body so make sure you are paying attention to your body and its signals for fatigue and overtraining. For a little more information on HIIT take a look at this video by the folks at FitnessBlender.com .