The current crisis may have some of us in a bind when it comes to our daily routine. If you’re used to getting out to the gym several times a week and your gym has closed, what do you do? One answer to that question is to adopt a HIIT routine. What are the benefits of HIIT?
We’ll answer that question, look at some example routines, and tackle some HIIT myths in this article. So, if you’ve been curious about a HIIT workout, you’ve come to the right place!
What is HIIT?
The simple answer is: High Intensity Interval Training. But what does that mean, exactly? HIIT is a workout routine that alternates periods of high-intensity activity with periods of low-intensity activity. There’s no single way to reap the benefits of HIIT because it’s highly adaptable.
You can get into a HIIT routine regardless of what shape you’re in now. If you’re into running, you can do a HIIT routine for running. If your jam is weight training, there’s a HIIT routine for that too. But, if you’re used to being sedentary, you can start to be more active with a beginner HIIT routine.
HIIT is adaptable not just to your activity level, but to your wallet too. If you don’t want to spend a lot of money on a routine you’re not sure you’ll stick to, you can get started with HIIT completely free. If you love investing in fitness tools and workout classes, you can do that too.
So, HIIT is an adaptable workout routine that uses high and low-intensity activity. Why is it better than other workout styles? We’ll get deep into the benefits of HIIT, but there’s something else we should discuss first.
What HIIT Isn’t
Whenever a new fitness trend catches on, there are inevitably people who attribute all sorts of amazing benefits to it. Suddenly, a few stretches can cure cancer, erase dementia, and heal organs. Then, fitness articles perform a 180 and report that the same activity wasn’t all it was cracked up to be.
Why does this happen? To put it bluntly, many journalists don’t take the time to actually read the science articles they quote. Or, if they do, they misinterpret the information. Science journals are notoriously boring to read and can be full of confusing jargon.
It’s important to read with a critical eye and click through to sources when you see them. It won’t take long to confirm if what you’re reading is true.
When it comes to the benefits of HIIT, it’s easy to get carried away. HIIT, however, isn’t a miracle cure for anything. Its weight-loss benefits aren’t proven to be higher than less-intense forms of exercise. To get into the calorie-burning zone, you need to sustain activity for a longer period than HIIT allows for.
But, if you haven’t been active and adopt a new HIIT routine, you will see weight-loss results. You’ll also do it faster, much faster.
Top 3 HIIT Benefits
Let’s take a look at some of the leading benefits of HIIT.
1: Heart health
The biggest improvement that most people who start a HIIT routine see in their health is in the heart. When you bump up the intensity of your activity for short periods, you increase your heart rate. To see the benefits of HIIT, you’ll want to get that heart rate up to 80% of your maximum capacity.
It might not feel great at first, but boosting this heart activity for short-intense periods can dilate blood vessels and increase flow to your vital organs. This helps prevent heart disease and can get rid of some of the plaque clogging up arteries.
After comparing HIIT to resistance training and aerobic exercise, scientists in Canada found that HIIT is more beneficial when it comes to the early stages of cardiac rehab. So, it helped patients recover from heart disease.
2: Muscle Oxygen
We normally associate oxygen with our lungs, not our muscles. It’s the lungs, however, that distribute oxygen throughout the rest of our bodies. Muscles need oxygen too. More oxygen flow to the muscles improves performance and recovery time.
As you practice your HIIT routine, you’ll begin to notice that your body takes advantage of the low-intensity periods and recovers faster. This is because the oxygen flow to your muscles helps them heal more quickly.
In one of the earliest studies on HIIT’s fitness impacts, scientists found that sustaining a HIIT routinefor six weeks increased “whole-body and skeletal muscle capacities to oxidize fat and carbohydrate in previously untrained individuals.”
3: Brain Benefits
An hour of jogging on a treadmill might help burn calories, but it can be pretty boring. A great benefit of HIIT workouts is that they’re short, intense, and easy to change up. So, you wind up focusing on the hard work instead of the cute yoga mat in the row ahead of you.
HIIT isn’t good for the brain just because it’s more interesting, it has impacts on the health of your brain. It can improve cognition and has been studied in patients with mental disorders. The increased activity is also great for treating depression and anxiety.
A study published in the journal Frontiers of Neuroscience found that even one session of HIIT increased the body’s production of BDNF. Those initials stand for Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor, which is a protein involved in the cognitive process.
If you like to learn by watching examples, you can find a lot of free HIIT workout videos online. As I’ve mentioned, the routine can be customized based on the workouts you’re already doing.
It may take a few tries to get your HIIT routine down just the way you like it, but before long, you’ll be reaping the benefits of a fast and effective workout. Be sure to stay hydrated and back off if you experience any sharp pain.
As with most routines, it does take some practice, but in just 20 or 30 minutes a day, it’s easy to sandwich a HIIT workout into just about anyone’s day.