The rise in popularity of fitness celebs like The Body Coach has also created a buzz around a fitness form called HIIT.
For those of you who aren't in the know, a form of cardiovascular training, HIIT stands for High Intensity Interval Training.
Interval training might have only reached instagram in the past couple of years but it's been a staple of sports and exercise programmes for a very long time. Runners, in particular, will know the benefits of interval training to improve their speed, running efficiency and economy and endurance.
HIIT involves exercising at a high level of intensity for short intervals of time, followed by short periods of complete rest or 'active rest' - yep, believe it or not there is such a thing! The work and rest periods vary according to the type of exercise you are doing, what goals you are trying to achieve, and your own fitness level. The key is the level of intensity that you personally reach so that you're working at 80% - 95% of your maximal heart rate during the high intensity periods and dropping down to about 40% - 50% in the rest period.
What's the point of interval training?
In a world where we are trying to squeeze work life, family life, social life and rest time into one day, in many cases it's health and fitness that put on the back burner. One of the greatest benefits of HIIT is that you can gain maximum benefit from a session that's a short as 20 minutes. In research carried out by McMaster University, Canada, evidence suggested that the same benefits could be gained from 3 x 20 minutes a week of interval training as could be from 10 hours of steady state, lower intensity work over two weeks.
Does it burn fat?
Yes. Although it shouldn't be viewed as some kind of magic solution. If you work hard at an effort level of 8-9 out of 10 on the work intervals, you will be working anaerobically (without oxygen). This puts your body into an oxygen debt which it needs to recuperate in the hours after you stop exercising. This process, called Excess Post-exercise Oxygen Consumption, means that even though your body is using carbs for energy during the workout, you'll be burning more fat for energy after the workout.
Don't get carried away though... if you are looking to lose fat, this extra burn isn't enough to reward yourself with a chippy tea after the session and still reap the benefits! Plus, there's no evidence to suggest that the calorie burn from HIIT is any better than that from a long steady run. However, for many of us, running at a steady pace with a effort level of about 6/10 is actually a possibility so, a 30 minute - 1 hour HIIT class will give you all the benefits you need.
What are the benefits?
- Stronger heart and lungs
- Increased bone density (reduced risk of osteoperosis)
- Reduced blood pressure
- Reduced risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, stroke and some cancers.
- Relieves stress
- Supports relief from depression and anxiety
- Better sleep
- weight loss
- increase strength and muscle mass
- Improve performances (speed and power)
- Short time period produces results
Should I HIIT?
The exercise you choose to do should be down to what you enjoy and what fits into your lifestyle. Fitness should be fun. If you don't like running right now, don't run! If you don't like peddling away on the exercise bike for an hour at a time, get off it!
If you're looking to improve speed, power, strength and efficiency for your sport, you should incorporate some HIIT and some resistance training into your programme, you will see improvements in your strength and conditioning; if you want to lose weight and tone-up, HITT can be a great way of achieving it; if you're a complete beginner and you want to learn to run 5k, interval sessions are a great way to improve your fitness and build your ability to run continuously.
On the other hand, if you want to run a marathon, HIIT sessions will have a place in your programme, but a very small one in comparison to the number of long steady runs, you'll need to be focusing on.
Align your choice of exercise to your goals and your lifestyle and you can't go far wrong. If you're looking for more guidance with this, why not get in touch either contact me here or visit my Facebook page and join in the conversation.
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