The internet is full of information that is right at the finger tips of each individual looking for answers. This is no different for the fitness industry. You can look anywhere online and find specific information about topics such as weight loss diets, workout protocols, and corrective exercises. One common topic that has taken off is high intensity interval training, or HIIT for short.

Everyone wants to find valuable information getting us the results we are looking for when seeking out information. So, is the new fad HIIT exercise regime all that it is chalked up to be?

First let’s look at what HIIT is. HIIT is repeated maximal effort intervals interspersed with low intensity rest periods. Sounds pretty simple, however there is a key element involved with HIIT protocols. The work intensities must be greater than 85-95% of your maximum heart rate, basically meaning that if you can continue training this way for an extended period your athletic ability is already that of a Greek god! Generally speaking, true HIIT programs vary in duration from 4 minutes to 20 minutes, which is a whole lot of work in a short time. This type of workout is different than circuit training, which can be easily confused with HIIT. You’ll end up spending a lot of time working circuits without reaping multiple benefits of HIIT. Circuit training involves multiple exercises performed sequentially with a break after a set number of movements. Some get these workouts programs mixed up, but now you clearly know the difference and will avoid the confusion.

The first thing you should look into before choosing HIIT is your interests and fitness goals. Are you marathon runner? Do you just want to change your body composition? These two questions are extremely important in determining if HIIT is right for you. Aerobic training has been shown over and over again to have beneficial effects on the cardiovascular system and athletic abilities, but what about this intense shortened training style? The ability of the body to adapt to various stresses is astonishing from different forms of training. HIIT has been shown to elicit similar, or greater, adaptations to maximal oxygen uptake compared to steady-state cardio with the greatest changes being in lower initial fitness levels. The catch? The issue lies within our ability to recover from these high intensity work outs. As noted by Macinnis & Gibala (2016), there may be a diminishing return with increased durations of HIIT, which means that physiological stress may increase overtraining potential and decreased performance.

HIIT for fat loss is another common area of interest. The comparison of 12 weeks of work equivalent training programs involving steady state cardio and HIIT showed that each group of individuals lost fat mass regardless of training protocol followed. What? Both groups lost the same weight? These results are also similar to another study that actually found more fat was lost during the moderate intensity long duration cardio. It appears as we dive into the information provided, a HIIT workout completed in 50-60% of the time taken for steady state cardio can provide the similar weight losses giving fitness enthusiasts the opportunity of fat loss with much more time to do other things!

The end goal of each individuals’ fitness journey is to find something you enjoy that will progressing you towards your goals. It is my opinion, that high intensity interval training is an effective way to attain better fitness performance when properly used in your training program. If your goal is running long distance, HIIT can provide some aerobic benefits, but you will still need to utilize distance runs to learn pacing techniques. For the rest of us that don’t run marathons, HIIT is a proven method of increasing physical performance, and is an effective weight management tool for those that require lower time commitments; however HIIT should not be utilized everyday. High intensity workouts create excess damage and require more time to heal. Incorporate interval training sessions twice a week and spend more time doing the things you enjoy!

Author Bio

Life is about choices, and I chose to believe in your ability to change. I empower middle aged, fitness challenged people to change their habits and lifestyles with individualized fitness programs to create a better version of themselves. I provide my clients with a positive and understanding environment that will teach the benefits of hard work and personal dedication. I am a pre-graduate from NAIT’s Personal Fitness Trainer program working towards changing lives forever. Follow me @bward_training on Instagram – Ben Ward