HIIT workouts have been a fitness buzzword for several years, now. Great news for those of you who love your HIIT workouts: scientific studies are lining up with positive proof that HIIT works. If you are wondering if HIIT is a typo, then let's talk about what it is and why it works.
HIIT, which stands for"high intensity interval training", describes any workout that alternates between intense bursts of activity and fixed periods of less-intense activity or even complete rest. You may have had some HIIT workouts without even realizing it, if you've ever participated in couch-to-5K style training, which in it's early stages has you repeat running for one minute and walking for two. Another example could be alternating 30 seconds of jumping jacks with 30 seconds of planking.
The key to a successful HIIT workout is the intensity of those bursts of activity. Instead of working out at the moderate pace you would if you needed to sustain your activity level for 30 minutes, the expectation is that you push yourself to move faster, knowing that you'll be resting in a few seconds. The goal is to quickly get your heart rate close to peak beats per minute, then bringing it down during the resting sets.
The result of these intervals of high intensity and rest are pretty impressive. One big advantage is that HIIT training shortens your workouts: you are likely to burn as many as 275 calories in a 20 minute HIIT workout, where it would normally take 45-60 minutes of moderate exercise at a steady space to burn through the same amount. A recent study in the Journal of Obesity found that when a group of sedentary men participated in just three 20 minute HIIT workouts per week, their body fat composition decreased and their aerobic capacity increased. Even more impressive, their results were markedly better than men completing longer workouts at moderate intensity.
Why does HIIT training work so well to burn fat? Here are a few reasons:
- It improves insulin sensitivity. When your body becomes insulin resistant, it has difficulty losing fat. Diabetics and pre-diabetics are especially prone to this, but many people are pre-diabetic without realizing it. If your doctor has encouraged you to lower your blood glucose or triglyceride levels, it's likely that you have some form of insulin resistance that HIIT workouts could help with.
- It increases post-workout energy consumption. That's a mouthful, but it basically means that after a HIIT workout, your body will continue to burn more calories than it would after a lower impact, steady state exercise, such as walking or jogging.
- It spikes production of two helpful hormones. Epinephrine and norepinhedrine are responsible for driving something called lipolysis. And guess what lipolysis does? It breaks down fat.
- It targets abdominal fat. That same study in the Journal of Obesity noted a significant decrease specifically in the belly fat of its HIIT participants.
So here's the deal: if you have been waiting for the numbers on the scale to reward you for your regular workouts, it's probably time to consider HIIT training. We have some great resources available for you, whether you want to work out on your own or in a group. Check out our Pinterest board, "Training", for some great ideas for solo HIIT workouts. We have several group fitness classes that incorporate HIIT workouts, like Cardio Interval, Tabata, Cycling, and Body Fit. Or, meet with a personal trainer who can help personalize a HIIT training plan just for you.