A survey completed by the American College of Sports Medicine named high-intensity interval training, or HIIT, as the number one fitness trend of 2014. Given that these workouts have become so popular, there is a good chance you have heard about them. If you have not heard about HIIT workouts, here’s a run-down of what it is, why it’s effective, its benefits, and the dangers associated with the workout.
High-intensity interval training workouts is a new twist on the traditional cardio workouts that many are accustomed to doing. These workouts alternate between short bursts of intense, all-out effort exercises and short recovery periods. The goal of these short bursts of intensity is to get your heart up near its maximum rate.
Studies have shown that HIIT workouts are effective in burning more fat and calories in a shorter period of time than the traditional steady-state cardio. HIIT workouts increase the need for oxygen during the exercise, creating an oxygen shortage which causes your body to need more oxygen during recovery periods. This causes an after burn effect known as excess post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC) that can elevate your resting metabolic rate. This after burn effect is the reason why you will burn more fat and calories doing HIIT workouts than doing traditional steady-state cardio.
There are several benefits associated with HIIT workouts.
- The workout is designed to push your body to the point of exhaustion over and over. This provides both aerobic (heart and lung) and anaerobic (muscle-building) benefits. Just 2 weeks of high-intensity interval training can improve your aerobic capacity the same as 6 to 8 weeks of endurance training.
- It can increase metabolism. EPOC increases your metabolic rate and can give your metabolism a boost for up to 48 hours following your workout.
- It’s quick and convenient. HIIT can be adapted to any space and time restraints you may have. In fact, most workouts take 30 minutes or less to complete.
- It’s efficient. You can achieve benefits with only 15 minutes of interval training a couple of times a week.
- No equipment is required. Most HIIT workouts require only the use of your own body weight.
As with any workout, it is recommended that you consult your physician before you begin to ensure your body can withstand the intensity of a HIIT workout. HIIT isn’t for everyone, especially individuals new to working out, and it has its risks. To help prevent injury and to allow enough time for your body to recover, HIIT workouts should not be done more than 2 to 3 days a week.
Because of the intensity of the physical activity associated with HIIT, there is a risk of injury. Improper form can lead to injuries to your bones, muscles, ligaments, and tendons. There have been reports of cardiac events, such as heart attacks, disruption of heart rhythm, and stroke, during or shortly after finishing a HIIT workout. Rhabdomylosis is rare, but serious. It is the result of an injury to muscle causing the breakdown of muscle fibers, leading to a release of muscle fibers into the bloodstream and can cause damage to the kidneys and other organs.
We all know that staying active is important to maintaining our health, but it is important to stay injury-free while being active. If you interested in trying HIIT workouts be sure to consult your physician before starting. If you already have taken on the challenge of HIIT workouts, listen to your body and stop the workouts if you begin to feel too much discomfort. There is such a thing as pushing your body too far!