You don’t have to go to the gym, or even leave your house, to get one of the best workouts available. High-intensity interval training, or HIIT. A fitness trend that’s rapidly gained popularity in recent years, HIIT takes many forms and workouts are easy to find on Youtube and other video channels.
What is HIIT?
Also called High-Intensity Intermittent Exercise, HIIT is a form of interval training designed for periods of maximum intensity to bring your body into an anaerobic state. Most HIIT trainings are under 30 minutes and many are much shorter. One of the earliest HIIT workouts was Tabata, which consists of strictly formatted short routines of under four minutes. But today there are seemingly endless variations on HIIT workouts, most of them more flexible. Many routines also mix HIIT other forms of exercise such as yoga. Hybrid HIIT-yoga classes are often called cardio yoga.
How Does HIIT Training Work?
Most HIIT workouts follow the same pattern: A timed period of exercise designed to keep you working at least 80 percent of your maximum heart rate, followed by a recovery interval of lower intensity exercise or rest. The idea is that pushing yourself into such high gear creates the energy needed for your body to perform at a higher level. The high effort required for HIIT workouts creates an “afterburn” effect which burns calories faster than regular steady-state workouts. Some research even suggests that the metabolism boost from a HIIT workout may last up to 18 hours.
Health Benefits of HIIT
Research has shown that quick bursts of high-intensity exercise may be more effective in improving health and fitness than longer workouts. Studies have shown that high-intensity interval workouts improve cardiovascular health, boost metabolic function, and cause healthy changes at the cellular level. In particular, studies have linked HIIT with anti-aging benefits such as improved memory and cognitive function and lower risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s.
What’s the Best Way to Try HIIT?
You can put together your own HIIT workout at home using a video, podcast, or written instructions. Start with a workout designed for beginners that offers very clear instructions and images. Make sure you choose a workout that begins with a warm-up, or do your own four-minute warmup of stretches and walking in place before beginning.
Go easy on yourself, stopping if you sense pain or discomfort. You do not need to complete all the repetitions of each exercise. If you already do yoga or are curious, a yoga-HIIT hybrid workout like this one from Health is a good place to start. Remember, slow and safe will prevent an injury that could sideline you and roll back all your fitness gains.