What is HIIT and is it effective?

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High-intensity interval training (HIIT) is hot right now in the fitness world. But what exactly is so great about it?

No time for an hour in the gym? Then HIIT – very short bursts of intense exercise followed by rest periods – is perfect for you. ‘It’s popular partly because it fits into people’s busy lifestyles,’ says uber-trainer Anna Reich (annareichpt.co.uk). ‘You don’t need equipment because generally the exercises – like squats, jumps and sprints – use your own body weight, so you can do it at home.’

HIIT workout potential benefits

HIIT has fast inch-loss benefits. ‘It’s better than long slow duration cardio exercise, like running, for torching fat,’ says Anna. HIIT causes an effect called excess post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC). This speeds your metabolic rate so you burn more calories for at least 24 hours after your workout. ‘HIIT causes spikes in growth hormone levels, which promotes muscle growth and aids in fat loss,’ adds Anna.

It’s not all about shaping up. Research has shown a Tabata workout – a form of HIIT that comprises eight exercises in four minutes – strengthens your heart and boosts fitness.

Is HIIT right for me?

HIIT’s not for everyone. It’s a hard session where you have to go out of your comfort zone. It can be very challenging and so a Personal Trainer at this point may be handy if you are out of shape or overweight. However, if you have any medical condition, HIIT should be avoided. You have to push yourself as hard as you can so avoid if you’re obese, have an injury or are out of condition,’ says Anna. ‘Build up with more moderate exercise first.’

How to incorporate HIIT into your fitness regime

HIIT shouldn’t be your only workout – you still need to add in strength and flexibility training for overall fitness. But for most people, it’s a fitness-boosting addition to an exercise regime two or three times a week. ‘Working out at a high intensity challenges your perception of your limitations, which builds your confidence and motivation to exercise,’ says Anna.

 

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