High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)
High intensity interval training (HIIT) is becoming very popular. HIIT made Sebastian Coe break world records in the 70s & 80s, Mo Farah and Bolt break records today and helps numerous regular office- going people remain fit and strong by spending minimal time in exercise. I have spoken about HIIT in my previous blogs on tips for runners and (Basal Metabolic Rate) BMR. Seeing the interest the topic has aroused I decided to devote a blog on HIIT.
What is HIIT?
HIIT is a form of cardiovascular exercise strategy which has alternating short periods of intense anaerobic exercise with less-intense recovery periods. Examples:
- Sprinting for 30 sec, followed by walking for 60 sec for recovery (one cycle). In this way do 8 cycles.
- Sprint cycling for 60 sec, followed by 120 sec for recovery (one cycle). In this way do 8 cycles.
- Punch bag at high intensity for 60 sec followed by rest for 120 sec. In this way do 6 cycles.
Method for HIIT
The recommended method for practicing HIIT is to warm up for about 5 min, followed by HIIT cycles and finally 3-5 min of low intensity cooling down. Warming up is important to prevent injuries by preparing the body for the intense work out and cooling down is important to reduce muscle soreness, prevent dizziness and gradually lowering the heart rate.
Benefits of HIIT
- It helps raise the BMR and is hence more effective in fat reduction. The results obtained in fat reduction and improvement in cardio ability would be superior to low/medium intensity workout and in a shorter time frame. 3-4 weeks of HIIT may equate with 6-8 weeks of low/ medium intensity workout.
- It improves cardio capacity faster than low/medium intensity workout.
- It builds stronger and bigger muscles than low/medium intensity workout. To note the comparison observe the leg muscles of a Footballer (HIIT trained) and a long distance runner ( low intensity trained).
- Time required for HIIT is lesser than for low/medium intensity workout. It is less boring and more challenging.
- It enhances insulin sensitivity better than low/medium intensity workout.
Precautions for HIIT
- Warm up and cool down as advised earlier.
- If you have led a sedentary lifestyle, or are quite overweight, or have vulnerable joints and tendons please do not start HIIT straight away. Improve your ability first with low/medium intensity workout. Start HIIT gradually, implying shorter intense intervals and longer rest periods- example- 20-30 sec interval at 75-80% of maximum intensity, followed by 90 sec of rest. As the ability improves the rest periods can be brought down to 30 sec and intense period increased to 60 sec at 90% intensity.
- Avoid doing HIIT for more than twice a week to avoid injuries.
Use HIIT for the proven immense health benefits. Please observe the precautions explained for best results.