Highway to Health: HIIT

Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.

Now that we’re even further behind on work, caught up on all our Netflixing needs, and 15 pounds heavier from fall break, its back to the grind at Swarthmore.

It’s a common sight at the gym to see people mindlessly running on the treadmill or elliptical — and it just breaks my heart. Not only can it be incredibly boring, but there are so many other ways to raise that heart rate, burn those calories, and work out a wider range of muscles!

High Intensity Interval Training, or HIIT, is an approach to working out in which you have a short period of intense exercise followed by an even shorter active rest period before jumping back into the intense exercise again– enough for you to catch your breath but not enough for a full recovery.

Why is HIIT so awesome? It’s efficient as hell.

You just get more benefits in a shorter period of time.

Compared to steady state cardio (i.e running at a consistent pace for 5 miles), HIIT burns more calories per minute. First of all, you’re exercising at a high level of intensity with active rest in between, so you’re really pushing your cardiovascular endurance and burning off fat. In a 2012 study, HIIT was found to be a safe and better cardiac rehabilitation alternative for patients with coronary artery disease and heart failure.

In addition, HIIT is intense enough to create a metabolic disturbance from which your body can then recover from. This means that the day after your HIIT workout, even while you are resting and recovering, your metabolism is at an elevated state and will burn calories at a higher rate.

With HIIT workouts, you don’t necessarily need equipment and you can work any muscle group by just using different exercises — so there’s no excuse for you not to workout even if you don’t have access to a gym.

Aim to do HIIT no more than 4 times a week. If you do incorporate weights, don’t lift at your max! The strength training should serve as a cardio burnout and an additional way to burn more calories.

Here are some sample HIIT workouts, ranging from a 5 minute workout, to a 20 minute workout (this one really gets your heart pumping considering how short it is), to a comprehensive 93 minute workout that includes strength training. HIIT is an incredibly versatile way to train and you won’t really ever get bored because the workout structure is fast and dynamic. You can even incorporate nterval training to your runs on the treadmill by alternating the speed and steepness.

To be fair, HIIT is by no means the singular way to workout and improve your health — but now that it’s on your radar, lack of time or equipment is no longer an excuse to not workout. Realize at that point, you’re just bullshitting yourself.


Works Referenced:

Gibala, M. J., Little, J. P., MacDonald, M. J. and Hawley, J. A. (2012), Physiological adaptations to low-volume, high-intensity interval training in health and disease. The Journal of Physiology, 590: 1077–1084. doi: 10.1113/jphysiol.2011.224725

Guiraud, Thibaut, Anil Nigam, Vincent Gremeaux, Philippe Meyer, Martin Juneau, and Laurent Bosquet. “High-Intensity Interval Training in Cardiac Rehabilitation.” Sports Medicine: 587-605. Print.

Smith, Mark J. “Sprint Interval Training-“It’sa HIIT!”.” Retrieved 12 15, 2010, from The Official Web Site of The United States Olympic Committee: http://www. teamusa. org/assets/documents/attached_file/filename/15738/Sprint_Interval_Training. pdf (2008).

Tremblay, Angelo, Jean-Aimé Simoneau, and Claude Bouchard. “Impact of Exercise Intensity on Body Fatness and Skeletal Muscle Metabolism.”Metabolism: 814-18. Print.

Featured image by Susan Gao

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