The Benefits of HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training)

I posted something earlier on my Geezersgetfit.com website and Facebook page about HIIT training, but since I have been doing this training myself for a few months and really like the results, I would like to explain it to you in more detail. The primary difference between HIIT (High Intensive Interval Training) and a normal workout is that you go as hard as you can (all-out) at an exercise for 20 seconds then slow down enough to recover for 40 seconds. You do this 20 times or 20 minutes per session. The 20 minutes may be increased as you progress your fitness level. As with any workout, you should warm-up for about 10 minutes before starting.  

An example of this is running as fast as you can for 20 seconds, then speed walk for 40 seconds. Do that 20 times in a row. What I like to do is run up steps as fast as I can for 20 seconds and walk back down the same steps for 40 seconds and do that at least 20 times. Because we need to hold on to the handrail so we don’t fall, it is easier for me to loosely hold on to the handrail and go up two steps with each step as quickly as I can. You can also do this weightlifting with heavy weights to accomplish the same thing by doing one set quickly for 20 seconds and a second set slowly for 40 seconds. I also like to do supersets (two or more sets in a row without stopping) using different muscle groups. You can also do more than one muscle group at a time such as arm curls while doing squats. Other exercise examples are biking, jump rope or other bodyweight exercises.

These workouts are anaerobic, which means your burn oxygen and energy already stored in the body (glycogen) VS oxygen breathed in, as you do in aerobic exercises. If anaerobic exercise sounds like a lot of work, that’s because it is. But the benefits that come with the intense fitness regime are enough to make you want to power through your next workout. Following are some of the major benefits of this type of training:

1. Increases bone strength and density

Anaerobic activity — like resistance training — can increase the strength and density of your bones. This can also decrease your risk of osteoporosis.

2. Promotes weight maintenance

In addition to helping your body handle lactic acid more effectively; anaerobic exercise can help you maintain a healthy weight. One studyTrusted Source examining the effects of high-intensity training found that while the effect of regular aerobic exercise on body fat is small, HIIT training can result in modest reductions in stomach body fat. Additionally, one study found that people performing HIIT three times per week for 20 minutes per session lost 4.4 pounds, or 2 kgs, of body fat in 12 weeks — without any dietary changes (16Trusted Source). 

SUMMARY: High-intensity intervals can produce similar fat loss to traditional endurance exercise, even with a much smaller time commitment. They can also reduce unhealthy visceral fat.

3. Increases power

It can increase your power. A 2008 study conducted on division 1A baseball players found that players who did eight 20- to 30-second wind sprints three days a week saw their power increase by an average of 15 percent throughout the season.

4. Boosts metabolism

Anaerobic exercise helps boost metabolism as it builds and maintains lean muscle. The more lean muscle you have, the more calories you’ll burn during your next sweat session. High-intensity exercise will increase your post-workout calorie burn and increase the calories you burn throughout the day.

5. Increases lactic threshold

By regularly training above your anaerobic threshold, the body can increase its ability to handle lactic acid, which increases your lactic thresholdTrusted Source, or the point at which you experience fatigue. That means you’ll be able to work out harder, for longer.

6. Fights depression

Need a pick-me-up? Studies show that anaerobic exercise, like strength training, can boost your moodTrusted Source and even fight depression.

7. Reduces the risk of disease

Gains in strength and bone density attained by high-intensity anaerobic training, like bodyweight squats and pushups, can reduce your risk for diabetes and heart disease.

8. Protects joints

By building your muscle strength and muscle mass, your joints will be better protected, meaning you’ll have greater protection against injury.

9. Boosts energy

Consistent anaerobic exercise increases your body’s ability to store glycogen (what your body uses as energy), giving you more energy for your next bout of intense physical activity. This can improve your athletic ability.

10. It Can Reduce Heart Rate and Blood Pressure

A large amount of research indicates that it can reduce heart rate and blood pressure in overweight and obese individuals, who often have high blood pressure (20). One study found that eight weeks of HIIT on a stationary bike decreased blood pressure as much as traditional continuous endurance training in adults with high blood pressure (7Trusted Source). In this study, the endurance training group exercised four days per week for 30 minutes per day, but the HIIT group only exercised three times per week for 20 minutes per day.

Some researchers have found that HIIT may even reduce blood pressure more than the frequently recommended moderate-intensity exercise (29Trusted Source). However, it appears that high-intensity exercise does not typically change blood pressure in normal-weight individuals with normal blood pressure (20).

SUMMARY: HIIT can reduce blood pressure and heart rate, primarily in overweight or obese individuals with high blood pressure.

11. Blood Sugar Can Be Reduced by HIIT

Blood sugar can be reduced by HIIT programs lasting less than 12 weeks (2030Trusted Source). A summary of 50 different studies found that not only does HIIT reduce blood sugar, but it also improves insulin resistance more than traditional continuous exercise (31Trusted Source). Based on this information, it is possible that high-intensity exercise is particularly beneficial for those at risk for type 2 diabetes.

In fact, some experiments specifically in individuals with type 2 diabetes have demonstrated the effectiveness of HIIT for improving blood sugar (32Trusted Source). However, research in healthy individuals indicates that HIIT may be able to improve insulin resistance even more than traditional continuous exercise (27Trusted Source).

SUMMARY: High-intensity interval training may be especially beneficial for those needing to reduce blood sugar and insulin resistance. These improvements have been seen in both healthy and diabetic individuals.

Takeaway

Anaerobic exercises push your body and lungs to rely on energy sources stored in your muscles. The meaning of the term translates to “without oxygen.”

People may avoid anaerobic training because it is hard. Yet by practicing simple anaerobic exercises, like high-intensity interval training, sprints, and heavyweight training, you can reap the benefits of this powerful workout.

While most people know that physical activity is healthy, it’s estimated that about 30% of people worldwide don’t get enough (1Trusted Source). Unless you have a physically demanding job, a dedicated fitness routine is likely your best bet for getting active.

Unfortunately, many people feel that they don’t have enough time to exercise (2Trusted Source3Trusted Source). If this sounds like you, maybe it’s time to try high-intensity interval training (HIIT). One of the biggest advantages of HIIT is that you can get maximal health benefits in minimal time.

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