High-Intensity Interval Training is the number 1 fitness trend in 2018.
And it’s no wonder. With fast, short workouts just 2-3 times per week, it’s easy to see why it’s a popular choice right now.
But the million dollar question is, “Does HIIT work?” Read on for everything you need to know about HIIT including the benefits and if it has been proven to work.
What is HIIT?
HIIT, or high-intensity interval training, is a system of exercise that pushes your heart rate above 80% of its maximum.
You give a full 100% effort during a quick burst of movement and then recover before repeating the process again. Because the intense periods are short (ranging from 15 to 60 seconds depending on fitness level), it’s possible to give it all you’ve got.
The recovery period might be an active recovery such as jogging in place or it could be shaking out your limbs.
HIIT exercises are diverse. It can be done at home or at the gym. You can even take a group interval training class at most gyms.
You can use cardio machines and other equipment to do HIIT exercises, or you can do it without any equipment besides a good pair of shoes.
Now, let’s get into answering the question: Do HIIT workouts work?
The Science Behind HIIT
HIIT workouts demand that you reach an intensity that you can’t possibly keep up for long. During this type of workout, you quickly become short of breath. And your oxygen stores become empty.
HIIT forces your body to work extra hard to rebuild your oxygen levels during your workout. Your body continues to fill up oxygen stores for the next 16-24 hours after your workout. This means that you get an after-burn effect where your body continues to burn fat and calories.
HIIT also increases your body’s maximum oxygen intake, known as VO2 max. Higher VO2 max scores equal better aerobic and anaerobic endurance. Moderate cardio workouts only improve aerobic endurance.
The intensity also increases your body’s level of catecholamines. This hormone is activated when your body is stressed. It causes your fat stores to be used as fuel.
The Benefits of HIIT
Maybe you’re not sure about putting your body through such an intense and grueling workout. Here are the top 5 benefits you can enjoy from interval training.
1. Scorch Calories
The body uses around 5 calories of energy to consume 1 liter of oxygen. So by increasing the amount of oxygen you use during and after your workout, you burn more calories.
For more information, check out these 10 fun, effective workouts you can do from home.
2. Quick and Convenient
One of the biggest perks of HIIT exercises is that you can do it wherever is most convenient. You can fit your HIIT workout in no matter where you are. At the park, in front of your couch, or at the beach.
If you are someone who doesn’t think you have enough time for exercise, think again. HIIT workouts can be as short as 10 or 30 minutes. And you’ll still be dripping wet at the end.
Go for a 2-hour walk or give it your all during a 10-minute interval workout. It’s up to you.
3. No Equipment Necessary
HIIT workouts are great because you can use your body weight to get into fantastic shape. You don’t have to spend money on dumbbells, bands, or gym memberships if you don’t want to.
That means that you don’t need to go buy some gear before you can try this type of exercise. You can get up and get started right now!
4. Boost your Hormones
High-intensity cardio elevates hormone levels. Especially testosterone.
Don’t worry, ladies. Elevated testosterone won’t make you bulk up like a bodybuilder.
In fact, testosterone is an important anabolic hormone for both men and women. Testosterone levels work to decrease belly fat, give you more lean tissues an improve your metabolism.
All cardiovascular workouts increase testosterone levels. But after a steady bike ride, you might see a 60% increase in this hormone. Putting your feet to the pedal as hard as you can during that bike ride will give you a 97% increase in testosterone.
It’s true. They tried this experiment out on cyclists and those are the results they measured.
5. Good for All Bodies
HIIT is versatile. It can be tailored to your fitness level. Whether you are an athlete, obese or a senior adult, HIIT can work for you.
If you have knee or back issues and can’t jump, no problem. There are many HIIT routines you can find that are low-impact.
If you have any medical concerns, you should get cleared for exercise by your doctor before you start training.
Remember, as HIIT is a hardcore workout, you should start with 1-2 times a week, tops.
Does HIIT Work? Here’s Hard, Cold Proof
So, you’re a hard one to convince, huh? Here are a few studies that prove that HIIT really works.
One study of healthy people who did not exercise previously shows that just 1 minute of HIIT 3 days a week for 6 weeks made a huge difference.
The people in this study did 10-20 seconds of intense cycling on a stationary bike. In between each set, they rested for a couple of minutes. From start to finish, the workout was only 10 minutes long.
At the end of the 6 weeks, the participants had much better blood sugar scores and an improved aerobic capacity.
In the British Journal of Sports Medicine, one study showed for people with heart diseases, HIIT improved their fitness 2 times more than those who participated in moderate-intensity workouts.
A third study found that fat loss via HIIT stems from more energy spent, better fat oxidation and increased insulin sensitivity.
So, does HIIT work? You betcha! We hope this article has motivated you to incorporate HIIT into your week so you can access the many health benefits of this type of exercise.
Next, read 9 tips to lose weight on a busy schedule.