We are busy folks travelling through the world at a super fast pace. Therefore, we are often impatient and want immediate results! This rings true even with our health and fitness. Some believe that the best way to achieve a healthy, sculpted bod is through 30 to 6o minutes of traditional cardio exercise, but there’s a better way…a quicker, more efficient way, and that is high intensity interval training, or HIIT.
HIIT is a fat scorching, fitness boosting exercise strategy, wrapped up in a short, intense workout. It starts with a warm up, followed by six to ten intervals of high, then medium intensity exercise and ends with a cool down, lasting only about 15-20 minutes.
Long duration cardio causes the body to enter a ‘steady state,’ where it adapts to the fixed speed. While this does improve endurance, HIIT does NOT allow your body to adapt to a regular pace. It trains the body to respond and recover from a multitude of demands, making it a healthier and more efficient machine, with far better endurance than that of regular cardio!
In terms of muscle definition, HIIT builds a more muscular and toned body than steady state cardio. Our bodies are built for stop and go movements, not for long, steady motion. That is why sprinters and long-distance runners have such different physiques!
As for that spare tire around your waist? Steady state cardio does burn fat at about 500 calories for 30 minutes of training, and post workout, will continue to burn calories for about 30 to 60 minutes. This is good, but interval training is better! It revs up your metabolism and keeps it up for hours after your workout, burning a TON more fat than traditional cardio!
Also, HIIT helps build your cardiovascular AND anaerobic systems, resulting in faster speed and more power – a double whammy! Therefore, runners who want to improve their speed should integrate some interval training into their workouts.
If you’re not convinced yet, here’s more! One study suggests that HIIT may cause appetite suppression, while regular cardio can (yikes!) increase it. Another study has shown that HIIT may be better at preventing diabetes than regular cardio. Apparently, short sprints remove glycogen from the muscles and excess glucose from the blood. Lengthy jogs remove blood glucose, but have zero effect on the muscles.
What’s great about HIIT workouts is that they can be done in many different ways: by running on a track or treadmill, swimming, with an exercise bike, elliptical or with your own bodyweight. Not to sound like your Mother, but you should always consult with your doctor before starting any new exercise program. To exhaust your muscles of stored energy, use a 60 second split time for HIIT, and build up from six to ten intervals depending on your fitness level.
Example: Hop on your exercise bike and warm up your body for five minutes at a nice, easy pace. Then ride like hell for 60 seconds at a pace so intense that your muscles burn and the last few seconds seem undoable. Drop your speed to a medium intensity pace for 120 seconds (beginner) to 60 seconds (advanced), and repeat this pattern through six sets (beginner) to ten sets (advanced). Cool down with your nice and easy warm up pace for five more minutes. End with a stretch of those tired muscles, and enjoy a little couch time while your body continues to burn calories!
With our crazy, busy lives, many are opting for HIIT to get lean and fit. It is effective and in my opinion, more efficient than steady state cardio. But the bottom line is: minimal time commitment + variety = a more enjoyable workout!