Don’t Have Time to Exercise? Try HIIT!

By: Jackie Confalone

You know that person on the elliptical or treadmill who exercises for an entire episode of HGTV, and stays at the same pace the whole time? (Maybe you are THAT person?) Well, I’m sorry to break it to them, but they could be spending a lot less time on the cardio machines and seeing better results, thanks to an exercise format called HIIT (pronounced “hit”).

HIIT stands for High Intensity Interval Training and involves repeated periods of high intensity effort followed by periods of recovery times.

What comes to mind when you hear HIIT training? Well-toned, muscular bodies grunting through a tough workout with heavy weights? Exercises that include jumping from the floor up onto a box or cardio exercises that look impossible to maintain? A place where you’d never fit in? Well, think again!

Interest and participation in HIIT have increased in recent years for several reasons:
– It can be easily modified for people of all fitness levels and special conditions, such as diabetes.
– You can do HIIT anywhere and with many different exercise modes: walking, cycling, swimming, rowing, elliptical machine, and even in group exercise classes.
– This format provides similar fitness benefits as continuous endurance workouts but in shorter periods of time. To many, it is more efficient.
– HIIT takes your cardio workout to another level, but in short bursts. Alternating between intense cardio segments and slower recovery periods can save you time. You can lose weight, boost your metabolism, and build muscle. And there’s a bonus! Your body will continue to burn calories for about two hours after you exercise.

Here are reasons to try HIIT:
1. HIIT burns 25 to 30% more calories than resistance training, cycling, and treadmill running.
2. It is very efficient. The recommendation for HIIT per session is 20-30 minutes. However, you can HIIT train for longer, but one will possibly lose their highest intensity after 30 minutes. You burn more fat than other cardio activities because your body starts burning fat for energy instead of carbs.
3. HIIT keeps burning calories even after you finish your workout. HIIT increases your metabolism post-exercise. After a HIIT workout, when you’re trying to come back to a normal resting state, it takes a lot of different efforts to bring you to that state, which fires up your metabolism. This is referred to as Excess Post Workout Oxygen Consumption, or EPOC. So, you continue to burn calories even when you’re sitting on your couch!
4. HIIT strengthens your heart. When you intensify your cardio for short bursts, your heart works harder and becomes even stronger. For people who already have heart issues, HIIT can more than double cardio fitness improvements compared to moderate intensity workouts. However, as with all exercise, get your doctor’s approval before trying this format.
5. HIIT keeps blood sugar in check. A review of fifty studies revealed that HIIT improves insulin resistance more than steady-state exercise.
6. HIIT can lower your blood pressure. A study showed that eight weeks of 20-minute HIIT workouts, three times a week, can decrease blood pressure as much as 30-minute continuous exercise for four days a week.
7. HIIT increases oxygen consumption. This is your cardiorespiratory systems’ ability to efficiently use oxygen—from the heart, lungs, blood vessels, and everything in between. This increase matters because it’s your cardiorespiratory system that allows you to suddenly run up the stairs, to chase after your child or grandchild when he bolts into the street, and to generally handle any surprising situations like these.
8. HIIT can improve muscle strength. With interval training, you’re pushing yourself to accomplish as many reps as possible. By incorporating strength-training exercise into your intervals (with cardio), you gain muscle-strengthening benefits.
9. You can tailor your HIIT training to your fitness level. If you don’t think you’re ready for a basic HIIT workout (20 seconds of work followed by 10 seconds of rest, for 8 rounds), start with longer rest periods and fewer rounds. You want to work your way toward a higher intensity on the cardio segments. Eventually changing rest periods to be a little shorter is how your body will begin to adapt and become more efficient.

Sound interesting, but not sure where to start? Try these three HIIT workouts for beginners that are 30 minutes or less:

If you’d rather try a HIIT workout in a group fitness setting and bring some friends, Body Zone’s new REP ROOM HIIT Studio offers a true HIIT workout, supportive coaching, the latest cardio and strength equipment, MYZONE heart rate monitoring technology, and science-driven class design. REP ROOM’s signature class is SWITCH 50, full-body strength and cardio fitness routine with three focuses: endurance, strength, and anaerobic. Participants “switch” stations anywhere from four to eight times in each class, and it’s different each time you come! There are modifications for any workout, any move.

Because of the high intensity component of HIIT, you may think it’s only for young to middle-aged people. However, those who are actively aging or elderly and who have been medically cleared for exercise, may experience the greatest benefits from HIIT. Some of those benefits include reversal of muscle decline, improved memory, better lung health, and lower glucose levels. Research has shown that there’s no increase in serious cardiac events or musculoskeletal injuries when doing HIIT properly compared to moderate intensity exercise. HIIT is also playing a role in cardiac rehabilitation, Type 2 diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, and cancer patients.

Remember to prioritize recovery. Doing many HIIT workouts while neglecting rest days can not only reduce the benefits of HIIT, but can cause injury, fatigue, or burnout. Limit your HIIT workouts to one or two per week, mixing them with lower intensity workouts.

You can play around with different HIIT combinations to suit your needs. Your main priority during HIIT workout is that you feel yourself working hard during the “effort” component as this will promote your body to adapt to the increased demands, resulting in higher fitness levels.

High intensity interval training produces many of the same health benefits as other forms of exercise in a shorter amount of time. So, if you’re short on time or want to try a different exercise format that may increase the benefits to your mind and body, consider trying HIIT.

High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT): What It Is, How to Do It (
High-Intensity Interval Training – 13 Reasons To Try HIIT Workouts (
Caloric expenditure of aerobic, resistance, or combined high-intensity interval training using a hydraulic resistance system in healthy men – PubMed (
High-intensity interval training in patients with lifestyle-induced cardiometabolic disease: a systematic review and meta-analysis | British Journal of Sports Medicine (
The effects of high-intensity interval training on glucose regulation and insulin resistance: a meta-analysis – PubMed (
The Effect of Low Volume Interval Training on Resting Blood Pressure in Pre-hypertensive Subjects: A Preliminary Study – PubMed (
High Intensity Interval Training For Seniors (

About Jackie Confalone:
Although retired from full-time work, Jackie is a freelance writer and has been a group fitness instructor for more than 35 years, the last 13 at Body Zone. She particularly loves working with seniors and people with chronic illnesses. She is nationally certified as a personal trainer and instructor for group fitness, Les Mills BODYFLOW, Pilates and SilverSneakers.

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