woman in a black sports bra top and grey shorts jumping in the air

HIIT, or high-intensity interval training, is nothing new, but with the help of the #HIIT community on social media, the concept has been gaining lots of traction in the fitness world lately. Although HIIT can be done anywhere at any time, lots of gyms are popping up with HIIT classes due to the increasing popularity. So what exactly is HIIT? And how can you make it work for you? We’re here to let you know!

What is HIIT?

The most basic definition of HIIT is a workout that alternates between intense bursts of activity and periods of less intense activity, or complete rest; but here’s the catch: in order to qualify as HIIT, you need to push yourself to your max for all of the intense bursts of activity. This means that you need to go as hard as you can go (at least a 9 on a scale of 1 to 10) for the full time, and then you can slow it down during the rest periods. Because HIIT requires you to perform at full intensity, the periods of work are short, usually ranging anywhere from 20 to 90 seconds.

A basic example of a HIIT workout is sprinting for one full minute then walking for two minutes, and repeating this set for a period of up 45 minutes.

Benefits of HIIT

The beauty of HIIT is in the intensity. Research shows that when you work harder, your body requires more oxygen, which leads to greater calorie burn. This also translates to burning more calories before and after your workout, or what is known as excess post-exercise oxygen consumption, or EPOC. High-intensity cardiovascular exercise — the kind that leaves you out of breath — raises your metabolic rate to the point where you could burn as much as six to fifteen percent more calories even after your workout ends.

  • Increased fat burning
  • Greater cardiovascular (heart) benefits
  • Improves insulin sensitivity and cholesterol profiles
  • Builds muscle while also burning fat
  • Boosts metabolism
  • Improves endurance
  • Takes less time
  • You can do it anywhere
  • No equipment necessary

Importance of Rest

The high-intensity exercise portion of HIIT is not the only piece of the puzzle though. The rest is just as important. Requiring your body to alternate between two very different states (intense cardio and rest) is excellent cardiovascular conditioning and allows you perform better during the intense activity, which translates to more fat burn. So just like you shouldn’t skimp on intensity, make sure you’re also getting the full period of rest.

Getting Started

There is no one size fits all approach to HIIT; but if you’re new to the fitness trend, there are some basic guidelines you can follow to develop a program that works for you. A good place to start is with a 1:2 ratio of work to rest. That means you’ll be doing an intense exercise, such as running stairs, sprinting, burpees, or spinning, for half as long as you’re resting. So if you’re working for one full intense minute, you’ll rest for two minutes. Repeat this cycle for around 20 to 45 minutes, or until you just can’t handle any more. As you get used to HIIT training, transition your work to rest ratio to 1:1 — one minute working and one minute resting.

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