HIIT (High intensity interval training) is the new buzzword in fitness – pick up any health or fitness magazine and you are guaranteed to find examples of HIIT workouts that promise to torch fat at lightning speed. It’s nothing new, but everyone is so busy these days, our lives happen at a million miles an hour, and we don’t all have hours each day to be a slave to the treadmill. Exclusive fitness classes such as Barry’s Bootcamp, GymClass and 1Rebel base their infamous workouts on a HIIT approach that gives their clients the best results in the shortest time. So why is it so great? And why has this simple training approach become such a sensation in the world of fitness?
The Science: What are the benefits?
HIIT workouts improve your metabolism meaning you burn calories long after your workout has ended. This is because your body works so hard that oxygen consumption post-workout remains high in order to return to your pre-exercise state. The more you push yourself, the harder your body has to work to return to normal, therefore more calories are burned.
HIIT promotes fat loss without compromising muscle more than lower intensity cardio. One concern for anyone trying to make #gains is that cardiovascular training can hinder progress. However, HIIT training at 75% or more of your maximum heart rate is said to give the physique of a muscular sprinter as opposed to the petite frame of an endurance runner. This makes high-intensity training a great supplement to a weight based programme as it allows your body to burn fat and create definition without compromising muscle growth.
HIIT increases fat oxidation which basically means that it convinces your body to use fat stores for energy. It does this by breaking down larger fatty chunks into smaller ones which can actually be used by your body for fuel instead of just being stored. This results in a slower release of energy, so you burn more fat during and after your workouts – win win!
HIIT reduces the risk of heart attacks and is also said to reduce the symptoms of diabetes. Studies have shown that short, sharp stints of exercise are actually better tolerated by patients with heart failure and recovering stroke patients than with moderate intensity exercises. This is because HIIT increases oxygen uptake and improves the heart’s pumping ability.
All sounds far too good to be true doesn’t it? Well it is, but the key to any successful fitness regime is consistency. You cannot expect to do one HIIT workout and all of a sudden have that enviable bikini body, no matter how good it is for you! One of the reasons HIIT has become such a sensation is because people have been able to incorporate it into their everyday lives and as a result, see real changes. So why should YOU try making HIIT part of your routine?
The logic: Why such a HIIT?
HIIT is cost effective and simple because it can be done anywhere and everywhere. There is no requirement for expensive equipment or personal trainers. This makes exercise much more accessible for people that struggle to pay for expensive gym memberships, those who travel a lot or have an unstructured routine.
It’s super quick – even something as short as a 4 minute tabata workout, if you put in the effort, can work wonders and leave you burning calories for hours afterwards. Even those with incredibly busy lifestyles will struggle to justify the age-old excuse of not being able to fit in a 15-20 minute sweat sesh!
It’s arguably more enjoyable due to the fact that it can be so varied. Yes, treadmill sprints are one of the most common forms of HIIT, but it doesn’t have to be the only way. If you’re short on equipment, body weight exercises can be easily combined into a quick circuit which can send your heart rate soaring in no time, plus you can pick and choose exercises for specific body parts too (see below for one of my favourites!)
Endorphins! As a great woman once said, ‘exercise gives you endorphins, endorphins make you happy’ – HIIT will make you seriously sweat which is a great stress reliever, and getting a truly hardcore workout fitted in no time at all will make you feel like a total boss!