High-intensity interval classes are a fast and fun way to fitness.

Supercharge Your Fitness and Brain Health with HIIT

There’s good news for those of us short on time; recent research has shown that quick bursts of high-intensity exercise may be more effective in improving health and fitness than longer workouts. In particular, studies have linked high-intensity interval training, or HIIT, to improved memory and cognitive function and lower risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s.

Studies in respected journals like Cell and The Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience have shown that high-intensity interval workouts improve cardiovascular health, boost metabolic function, speed weight loss, and even slow aging at the cellular level.

So it should come as no surprise that the American College of Sports Medicine listed high-intensity interval training, or HIIT, number one among the fastest growing fitness activities of 2018. How can you get in on this craze?

Interval training is familiar to runners and other sports enthusiasts, who’ve long used interval workouts to boost speed and endurance. Perhaps the first HIIT workout to become well known is Tabata training, popularized from Japan. But today, HIIT workouts come in many forms, though typically they consist of a pattern of short very intense exercises followed by a slowdown.

You can put together your own HIIT workout at home using a video, podcast, or written instructions. But there is the potential for injury, so a safer approach would be to join a class at a local gym or fitness center.

Many classes and groups now combine HIIT workouts with other sports and fitness activities. You can find gyms and classes offering HIIT cycling, yoga, boxing, and dance. For example, Jazzercise now has a HIIT workout, while SoulCycle just announced a new fitness class, SoulActivate, structured in high-intensity intervals. And many gyms are shrinking fitness classes from 60 to 30 minutes while upping the intensity. Examples of this are the “Burn” classes at Gold’s Gym and the F45 studios that are opening in cities across the U.S.

If you’d like to try HIIT yourself, start with an introductory class taught by a reputable instructor. And don’t push yourself too hard; an injury could sideline you and roll back all your fitness gains.

Melanie Haiken writes about health, wellness and fitness for national magazines and websites. She specializes in discovering and reporting the latest research on diet, nutrition, fitness, weight loss and other health-related topics. Her award-winning stories have appeared in Fitness, Shape, Health, Forbes, and other respected magazines. She also contributes health stories to numerous Kaiser Permanente newsletters and other publications.