Everyone’s Talking About HIIT. Should You Be Doing It?

HIIT’s promise seems too good to be true: get fit and strong in half the time. Is it true? And is it right for you?

HIIT stands for High Intensity Interval Training. It involves short sharp bursts of extreme activity, followed by a short rest. Then repeat.

An example is running on the spot very fast for one minute, followed by one minute rest.

When compared with continuous moderate exercise (CME) such as running or walking, studies show HIIT gives similar fitness benefits in a shorter time.

So what are the real advantages of HIIT, and are there any disadvantages?

Advantages of HIIT

  • Fat loss

For most people, HIIT is better for weight loss than moderate exercise.

High intensity interval training has been shown to significantly reduce subcutaneous fat, especially abdominal fat, as well as total body mass.

A 1994 study showed that a HIIT program resulted in a nine-fold greater reduction in body fat compared to a continuous moderate exercise program, with a more recent study from 2008 finding a similar result.

  • Cardiovascular health and fitness

Harvard Health says HIIT boosts cardiovascular fitness and produces equal or greater improvements in blood pressure and blood sugar compared with moderate-intensity exercise.

Plus, HIIT has been shown to result in a reduced risk of cardiovascular events in both males and females.

  • Convenience

A HIIT workout is quick. You can improve your fitness in less time than with other types of workouts.

You don’t need special equipment. You can do HIIT at home with just your body weight.

Disadvantages of HIIT

  • It’s not comfortable

You’ll feel your muscles burn and your lungs pushed beyond your normal state.

  • You need to be motivated

Because you have to push yourself, it’s hard to do HIIT when you’re feeling flat. In these cases, you might find it useful to do a free HIIT workout on YouTube or try a HIIT class at the gym.

As always, the best exercise for you is the one you will actually do. So give HIIT a go, and see if you like it.

If you’re just starting out, ease into it. For example, switch between 30 seconds of very high-intensity activity and two to three minutes of slower activity. You can look for ‘Beginner HIIT’ workouts on YouTube or at your local gym.