Physical inactivity is a worldwide epidemic. This has led to cardiovascular disease becoming one of the most common causes of death.
The World Health Organization recommends 150 minutes of moderate exercise per week. While many fail to reach that, many who do meet the requirement aren’t exercising intensely enough. New research is saying you have to make those exercise sessions count or else you won’t be receiving much cardiovascular benefit.
Don’t Hit Cardio, HIIT Cardio!
While many believe cardio is the key to losing weight, it simply is not. Numerous studies have shown that consistent cardio-only workouts result in initial weight loss, but after a short period of time, weight plateaus and could even go back up. Why is that?
Humans are great at adapting, and this goes for exercising as well. Doing the same cardio week after week will only get your body used to it. Your body learns to store some energy specifically for that cardio session, so while you feel like you are burning fat, you aren’t. In fact, once you get to that point in the workout where the stores are up, your body starts using muscle as an energy source, not fat. It seems strange, but without adding resistance training or making the cardio dynamic, cardio won’t benefit you as much as you think.
This is where HIIT comes into play.
HIIT stands for high intensity interval training. As the name suggests, this type of workouts features repeated intervals of intense exercise and rest. You go all out for 30 seconds to a minute, then rest, and then repeat a desired amount of times. With HIIT you can turn any ordinary workout into a short yet killer one.
Science backs HIIT workouts too! There have been a number of studies to prove whether or not HIIT workouts are actually the most effective way to workout, and they all came to the same result: It works. For any type of individual, they lost the most weight while putting on lean muscle doing HIIT workouts. Here are some of the benefits of HIIT:
- Maximize weight loss
- Incinerate fat
- Builds lean muscle
- Significantly reduces risk for cardiovascular disease (much more than cardio alone)
- Increased energy throughout the day
- Controls appetite and blood sugar
As you can see, the benefits of HIIT are enormous. HIIT is literally the healthiest way to exercise. Next we will discuss how to make a HIIT workout. Don’t get too carried away with HIIT workouts because they are strenuous on the body and they require more recovery time.
Building Your Own HIIT Program
The great thing about HIIT is that since its so intense, you don’t need many exercises or time. If you enjoy working out at the gym, you won’t have to spend so much time going to different areas of the gym and waiting for equipment to open up. If you enjoy working out at home, it will make those boring workouts a blast.
- Pick an exercise (or two): Turning regular cardio into HIIT is easy. First, pick your favorite type of cardio. Whether it’s the treadmill, bike, elliptical, or something like swimming, make sure its something you will be the most into to make exercising more effective. You can stick with just one exercise, but HIIT becomes a bit more dynamic and effective if you choose two exercises like rows and sprints.
- Choose your timing: As I mentioned earlier, HIIT involves intense exercise followed by a period of rest. Think about your level of fitness and activity and choose accordingly. For example, a beginner doing walking + sprints might choose 10 seconds sprints followed by a minute of walking. Once could even do something like 30 seconds jogging followed by a minute of walking. The whole point of HIIT is to perform intense exercise, so if you are jogging when you are perfectly capable of sprinting, you won’t receive the benefits that come with HIIT.
- Set a goal: There are different goals for each HIIT session. If you’re in a crunch you might set a limit of 20 minutes to your session. You can have a preset amount of time each session of lets say 30 minutes, which makes that HIIT your workout of the day. This way your goal is quality. The other two goals go hand in hand. You can race against the clock to complete your HIIT faster and faster each time, or you can keep the clock going to test your endurance. These are all great ways to tweak your HIIT sessions to keep them interesting and fun.
With these principles, you can easily create your own HIIT program. There are a few things to consider when building your program, however.
One is to think about your fitness and activity levels. Someone who isn’t very active shouldn’t be starting off with 30 seconds sprints; rather, individuals like this are better served starting off with jogging for a bit and working up to sprints. Keep your fitness level in mind when choosing which exercises to do.
Another thing to consider is your goal. On one hand you can be exercising for the health benefits and to lose weight. Someone like this should perform more dynamic cardio-based HIIT. On the other hand, you can be exercising to lose weight but build a good amount of lean muscle. Individuals in this category should include resistance exercises in their HIIT.
Lastly, I want to reiterate the importance of rest. A HIIT session of just 20 minutes can leave you on the floor gasping for air, so it would be wise to space out your HIIT. Muscle builds when you are resting, so take it easy here and there. You also don’t want your body to start eating away at muscle during your workouts.
That being said, mixing HIIT into your regular exercise routine can provide some serious results, trust me. But don’t be surprised to find yourself cursing yourself out after a HIIT session.