Whatever your exercise of choice may be, chances are pretty good you’ve heard of the term high intensity interval training, or HIIT. But what is HIIT really, and how can you use it to make the most out of your workouts?
The hallmark of HIIT is repeated, extremely hard bouts of work interspersed with periods of recovery. During your work intervals, you’ll be challenging yourself nearly to your max. It’s the opposite of going for a long, slow run where you ration your energy in order to sustain the activity for longer.
When your body is going all-out during HIIT, it relies on your anaerobic pathways (breaking down glucose without oxygen) to produce the energy it needs to fuel you. This provides an immediate supply of energy, but the amount is very limited, which means the length of time you can sustain that max effort is quite short.
What are the benefits of HIIT?
The benefits of true HIIT are performance-based, especially for those looking to improve at a certain sport. With HIIT, you’ll maximize your explosive performance and speed. There are other benefits too, including increases in VO2 max (how much oxygen you can use during exercise) and improvements in insulin sensitivity (how responsive your cells are to insulin), blood pressure, and cardiovascular function, according to a 2017 review published in the journal Sports Medicine.
Because HIIT spikes your heart rate during those hard efforts, it can also help contribute to weight loss since you’ll be burning more calories per minute than you would with lower-intensity work. This also makes it a convenient form of exercise for those who are short on time.