High Interval Intensity Training

High Intensity Interval Training – HIIT

I have heard a lot about High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) lately. In case you haven’t, it is short bursts of hard exercise alternating with periods of recovery doing lighter work. The idea is that intense exercise stresses the body – heart, arteries, lungs, muscles. The body doesn’t like stress, so it responds by building the muscles to do the work without stress. It is a misperception that you shouldn’t bother with exercise unless you can commit an hour. More, shorter, varied periods of exercise may be the very best workout.

The scientific goal is to create more mitochondria to increase the capacity of muscles to burn energy – sugars and fat. This happens on a long walk (duration) or a short sprint (intensity). Interval training, which combines the two, may be the ‘sweet’ spot for the best health outcomes. If you walk regularly, it might mean jogging, doing jumping jacks or climbing stairs for a minute every few blocks. I treasure my long walks with friends, but I have been on the recumbent bike to try intervals. I like it.

The benefits of revving up your workout with intervals of intensity are said to be:

  • Improve your cardio vascular fitness – aerobic capacity.
  • Burn more calories.
  • Shakeup your routine – it is more interesting to vary your workout. You are more likely to exercise if you don’t find it boring.
  • Reduce your risk factors for metabolic syndrome, diabetes, and cardio vascular disease.
  • Fight aging.

HIIT Training, The One Minute Training

The guru of interval training is Martin Gibala, professor and author of The One-Minute Workout. His book is worth a look, but I am sorry to report that he does NOT suggest that you can be fit by simply exercising for one minute a day. Instead he offers scientific research showing that lots of combinations of intense exercise with lighter movement brings great health results. One minute exercising hard and one minute of easy pedaling on a bike, repeated ten times is an example. Walking – jogging – walking is good. No special equipment required. The One-Minute Workout: Science Shows a Way to Get Fit That’s Smarter, Faster, Shorter for $14.16.

I have found that on the recumbent bike, two minutes of steady pedaling, then one minute of pushing hard and fast, repeated 8+ times is a satisfying workout. I could do the same thing on an Elliptical machine.

HIIT Training Itunes


Time your intervals. This HIIT Training Timer App is free and you can customize the length and number of segments in your exercise routine.

The Johnson and Johnson Official 7 Minute Workout gets great reviews and 1.5 Million people have downloaded it – but it is a solid, short burst of varied exercise. An example is stepping up on to a chair for a minute, then doing squats. Efficient, but not interval. I adapted it to HIIT by doing one of the suggested moves, then hitting the pause button and taking a brief walk before the next minute of exercise. The app lets you choose from routines which are Easy, Moderate and Hard. You can play music with your exercise. It does not require any special equipment.

Four minutes of Tabata Interval Training was designed by Japanese research scientist, Tabata. After warming up, you push yourself as hard as you can for 20 seconds, then rest for ten seconds. Repeat eight times. Cool down. You can choose the exercise as long as it is intense for you. You can change exercises after each 10 second rest. Start slowly, with light exercise or shorter cycles to make sure your body is up to this. It is intense. Online Tabata Timer.

Exercise snacking is a variation on HIIT. It turns out that humans are not designed to sit down for long periods. Experts suggest that we get up and get moving multiple times during the day. A brisk ten-minute walk after each meal may be better for us than one thirty-minute walk. Get up from your desk, stretch and go climb some stairs – not long, just more frequently than most of us routinely exercise.

Obviously, intense exercise is not for everyone and we are not medical professionals. If the idea of interval training interests you, check with your doctor.

Link to Gibala abstract on a study which found that interval training had the same health benefits as traditional endurance training in one fifth of the time.


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