According to Google, the number of people searching for HIIT has tripled in the last few years and is still increasing. This is one fitness trend that looks like it’s here to stay. But HIIT (also known as high-intensity interval training) is much more than just a popular abbreviation. It’s a type of exercise that offers a number of amazing benefits to your body and workout routine beyond regular cardio.
HIIT is a form of cardio where you push your body extremely hard for short bursts, with short low-intensity recovery periods in between. This alternating approach means you can fit in more intense exercise because instead of one period where you push yourself to your limits you are instead doing it again and again.
These grueling workouts produce incredible results, which is probably why its popularity is steadily growing. But what are the benefits?
Burn More Calories
Due to the intensity of the exercise, it’s no surprise that you’ll burn more calories during your workout. The best part, though, is research has shown that you’ll also burn considerably more calories in the 24 hours following your HIIT workout. That means even when you’re lying on the couch nursing your aching muscles, you can have the smug satisfaction that your hard work is still paying off.
Find Your Limits
With regular cardio, it’s all too easy to slip into a ‘comfortable’ workout where you’re not pushing yourself too hard. You know the drill. You rock up to the gym and cruise through a session on one of the cardio machines, with more focus on the daytime TV they’re showing than on getting sweaty.
Due to the intensity of HIIT that casual approach simply isn’t an option. It will have your heart pounding while you gasp for oxygen – you’ll have to save the TV for later.
Keep Things Fresh
Unlike traditional forms of cardio, which tend to revolve around doing one activity, by their very nature HIIT workouts are not restricted to any one type of exercise. You could do it with one type of exercise, for example simply do a running workout that uses the HIIT method (i.e. sprinting in short bursts). But where’s the fun in that?
If you’re the type that craves a bit of variety, HIIT has your back. Most HIIT workouts combine a range of different movements and exercises, and there are so many out there that you can always find a new one if you want to switch things up.
You Don’t Need Equipment
The only things you need for HIIT are A) your body and B) the floor. Some clothes might also be advisable if you’re in a public place. This simplicity is a huge benefit because it means there are no excuses. Raining outside? That’s fine, just work out indoors. On holiday and can’t find a gym? No problem.
Build Your Stamina
When you do a HIIT workout, you are pushing your heart to its limits. This will promote a stronger heart and greater stamina. Research in 2008 showed that after eight weeks people who had been doing HIIT had increased their stamina more than those doing normal steady state cardio.
Boosts Growth Hormone Production
Growth hormone is naturally produced by your body and is essential for helping you stay in shape. It burns fat and also assists with the growth and repair of your muscles. In fact, some people shell out lots of cash for suspect growth hormone supplements just to reap more of these benefits.
You’ll be relieved to hear you don’t actually need those because HIIT has been shown to boost your body’s natural production of this amazing hormone. Granted, this method may be a bit more effort than swallowing a pill, but at least it’s proven to work.
It Saves You Time
Have you ever used ‘not having enough time’ as an excuse not to work out? Most people have, and thanks to HIIT it’s time that one bit the dust. HIIT workouts are often only 10-15 minutes long, and the vast majority are 30 minutes or less. Yes, you can still burn some serious calories, but you don’t have to hit the treadmill for hours to do so.
Work Your Muscles
Cardio is often associated with muscle loss. After all, if you’re losing weight but not exercising your muscles, you can reasonably expect to lose some muscle along with the fat, because your body will think it doesn’t need them.
The good news is as well as leaving you breathless, you can use HIIT to work your muscles as well. For example, HIIT workouts often make use of bodyweight exercises such as squats, jumps and press ups. Due to the chop-and-change nature of the workout, it’s also very easy to grab a dumbbell and throw some weight training into the mix as well.
Time To HIIT It
To sum up, HIIT is such a powerful tool in your workouts because it’s a way to push yourself to your absolute limits and get guaranteed results. But its real strength lies in its flexibility. You can choose the type of exercises that suit you. You can focus it on one area or do a full body workout. You can only do it for 15 minutes and still reap the benefits.
Due to the intensity of HIIT training, it carries a risk of overtraining if you don’t give your body enough time to recover. So experts recommend not doing it every day, but rather limiting it to no more than 3-4 sessions per week.
If you have yet to try HIIT and have resigned yourself to the drudgery of the treadmill week in and week out, then it’s time to try including HIIT in your workouts and reap the benefits.