Every year for the past 12, the American College of Sports Medicine’s Health and Fitness Journal has released the findings of the Worldwide Survey of Fitness Trends. This year, the number-one fitness trend is high-intensity interval training (HIIT). While it’s not a new concept – it was also the top fitness trend in 2014 – it’s growing popularity shows that people are buying the science behind the trend.
We bring you the lowdown, so you can use HIIT to tone up!
It’s not the type of exercise but rather the intensity that defines this approach.
What is HIIT?
The “high-intensity” part means that you push yourself to your upper limit. The “interval training” means you alternate periods of activity and rest. You can do this with any kind of exercise – swimming, running, squats – it’s not the type but rather the intensity and rest that defines this approach.
How to do it:
- Push to your upper limit. So, if you are swimming, for example, go flat out for 40 seconds.
- Then rest for 20 seconds. Each rest is shorter than each exercise burst – usually half the duration.
- Repeat. Because of the intensity of the workout, it seldom lasts more than 30 minutes and can be even shorter.
What makes it so appealing? HIIT is an efficient way to work out. You burn more calories in less time. The workout emphasises the fat-burning, cardio-boosting part of exercise, rather than taking you through an hour-long class that takes you more slowly to your peak, then brings you back down again.
You may be shattered, but you’re out of the gym in half an hour – or less.
What is the science behind it? A number of scientific studies into HIIT have shown that it has the promised effects – it results in fat loss and a fitness and performance boost in significantly less time than a traditional workout. It puts the body repeatedly into overload, so your body super-compensates in anticipation of the next round of demands.
Studies have also shown that HIIT boosts your metabolism significantly after the workout. This afterburn means that you keep burning calories throughout the day, even when you are at rest.
Another study published showed that people doing HIIT also had an improvement in the exercise capacity of their muscles’ mitochondria, which become less efficient as you age, leading to insulin resistance and reduced cardio fitness.
Isn’t it dangerous to work so intensely? As with any other form of exercise, there are dangers to HIIT, especially if it is not done correctly. Since the whole point is pushing yourself to an exercise peak, it’s a good idea to have your heart and blood pressure checked out before you start (this is a good idea whatever form of exercise you are doing). There are also benefits for your body in doing a proper warm up and cool down, so don’t sacrifice these in the interests of brevity. And finally, it is possible that by focusing on speed rather than form, you might not be doing the exercise in the right way, which could lead to muscle and tendon strain and joint injury.
For all these reasons, at least in the beginning, it is a good idea to do HIIT training under the instruction of a fitness professional, who can guide you through the process and push you in the right way.
How can I get into it? Most gyms and personal trainers offer HIIT training, so find out when you could schedule a session or join a class. If you’d like to try to work it into your own existing fitness routine, and already know what you are doing, then look online for a routine that suits you and your exercise type. Here are some examples.
Fabulously fit in 2018 If you think you can handle the gruelling peaks of HIIT, then what are you waiting for? Let 2018 be your year of HIITing the high notes.