Many exercise enthusiasts have recently added HIIT to their exercise regimen. It seems that every few years, something new takes the fitness field by storm. The 80’s brought us leg warmers and aerobics with Jane Fonda. Billy Blanks came along with Tae Bo in the 90’s and had us all kick boxing in our living rooms. Thus far, the 2000’s have brought us an array of new methods from Spinning classes, Cross Fit and now HIIT to name a few. But what exactly is HIIT and is it for you? The acronym itself stands for High Intensity Interval Training. It requires short bursts of higher intensity movements followed by lower intensity exercise. It has become so popular that the American College of Sports Medicine has ranked it within the top 5 exercise trends since 2014. What exactly makes these workouts so great?1.) It’s a 2 for 1 Workout. The nice thing about HIIT workouts is they are often a mix of both cardio vascular exercise and strength training, all combined into one complete and challenging workout. In order to extrapolate the true benefits of HIIT, it needs to be done correctly. The important factor to remember when performing a HIIT workout is that the intensity must be high during the high prescribed periods. This is where the cardio component comes in to play. These short, but effective bursts, require you to push it to the highest level for anywhere between 20-90 seconds. By adding weights such as dumbells or kettlebells, you can not only kick up the cardio intensity level, but also add an effective strength component.
2.) HIIT is a Time Saver (although not an easy one so don’t be fooled). For those strapped for time and looking to get in a good sweat session, HIIT is a great option. Most workouts range in length somewhere between 20-30 mins because if you are doing it correctly, that’s all even the most accomplished athletes can handle. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services even includes HIIT in its revised new guidelines as of 2018 for physical activity because of its time saving element, thereby making it more accessible to busy lifestyles.
3.) 3 Times a Week is Enough! That’s right- you don’t need to nor should you do HIIT more than 3 days a week. Because of it’s high intensity nature, it is recommended you only spend 3 days a week doing these types of workouts and preferably not back to back. It is wise on the non-HIIT days to choose a form of low intensity cardio for 30-40 mins. This could be anything from a walk at a 15 minute per mile pace or a neighborhood bike ride.
HIIT is not for everyone though and there are a few groups that are recommended not to partake in these routines. Those with a heart condition, have had heart surgery, those diagnosed with osteopenia or osteoporosis, those that are currently injured, women who are 3-6 months post-partum or pregnant individuals should avoid doing HIIT workouts.
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