The Hype on HIIT

The number one excuse I hear from clients for not exercising is “I don’t have time.”  One of the best things about high intensity interval training (HIIT) is that you don’t need a lot of time. You can get great results with as little as 10 minutes of HIIT training.  In fact, a study done at McMaster University showed that 10 minutes of HIIT could burn the same amount of calories as 50 minutes of steady state cardio. And let’s be honest, who doesn’t have at least 10 minutes a day to spare?

The American College of Sports Medicine recommends that adults get 150 minutes per week of moderate intensity exercise. However, when the intensity level is increased to a more vigorous level, the recommendation is reduced to 75 minutes per week, making HIIT training much more time efficient.

So now that we have eliminated the excuse of not having time…

Portrait of a fitness man workout in gym

What is HIIT?

HIIT is short bursts of high intensity intervals where you push your body to at least 80% of its max up to all-out effort, followed by short periods of active or complete rest. The great thing about HIIT is it can be done almost anywhere! You don’t need any equipment do to it. The main focus is pushing your heart to its max and keeping your heart rate up, which is often easier to do without equipment. You can use your body weight as resistance doing plyometric exercises or even just running.

Another major benefit to high intensity interval training is that it is not only accomplished in less time than steady state cardio, it can also burn more calories. Have you ever heard someone say that you burn more fat working out at a lower intensity? Fat is the main source of energy when performing at lower intensities, compared to glycogen being the main source of energy at higher intensities.  Although there is a greater percentage of calories burned from fat at lower intensities, overall caloric expenditure and breakdown of fat is much higher when your body is working at a higher intensity.

Performing HIIT increases your body’s demand for oxygen. Once exercise is completed, your body needs to make up for that lack in oxygen and restore metabolic pathways to pre-exercise levels. This is called EPOC (excess post-exercise oxygen consumption).  EPOC is the period of heavy breathing you experience after exercise. During this stage, your body’s metabolic rate increases, which means your body is burning more calories even after exercise is over! Because there is larger amount of stress placed on the body during HIIT it can lead to greater fat loss and overall caloric expenditure than steady state cardio.

Performing high intensity interval training will also greatly increase your VO2 max. VO2 max is the maximum amount of oxygen your body can utilize.  With a higher VO2 max you will be able to transport oxygen more efficiently and deliver it to your muscles where it can be most effectively used. When you increase the level of intensity, your body’s oxygen consumption increases. Consequently, your fitness level will be heightened as your body adapts and it is better able to use the oxygen carried to your muscles to create energy, leaving you able to sustain strenuous activity for longer periods of time.

The lesson to be learned here is if you’re trying to get the most bang for your buck, really trying to reap the most benefits out of your workouts, incorporate HIIT. It will save you time, requires no equipment, burns more calories, increases oxygen consumption, and can lead to an overall increase in your fitness level.

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Written by Kelli Bettridge, CPT, FNS

Kelli is a NASM CPT and is FNS certified. She currently trains clients at Vasa Fitness. Kelli earned her Bachelor of Science Degree in Exercise Science from Utah Valley University where she currently teaches Fitness For Life.