All The Benefits Of High Intensity Interval Training Workouts

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Last Updated: 7th October 2016

High-Intensity Interval Training, or HIIT, is all the rage these days!

Fun Fact: HIIT Training dates back to the 1970s, created by British athletics coach Peter Coe based on the work of Swedish physiologist Per-Olof Åstrand and German coach and university professor Woldemar Gerschler.

For those who don't have a lot of time to spend at the gym but still want to get in a killer workout, HIIT is the way to go. Thanks to the non-stop, high-intensity pace of the workout, you can fit in both aerobic (cardio) and anaerobic (resistance training) exercise in just 15 to 25 minutes. Talk about a great use of time!

HIIT workouts are fairly simple:

  • Warm-Up: 5-10 minutes of low-intensity exercise and dynamic stretches
  • High-Intensity Interval: 30 to 60 seconds of full-on sprints, weightlifting, cycling, etc.
  • Low-Intensity Interval: 15 to 120 seconds of low-intensity walking, jogging, cycling, or rest.
  • Repeat the High/Low-Intensity Intervals for up to 25 minutes.
  • Cool Down: 5-10 minutes of low-intensity exercise and dynamic stretches

Pretty simple, right? It's a workout anyone can do, and though it's INCREDIBLY tough, it's worth it.

Why is that? Below we've listed the many benefits of HIIT workouts. By the time you reach the end of the list, you'll see exactly why HIIT may be just the thing for you...

Save Time

This is MY personal favorite. I don't have hours on end to spend at the gym, so HIIT training makes it easier to fit in a killer workout in way less time.

As the workout structure above indicates, you can get through a full workout in 30 to 40 minutes. With 5-15 minutes for warm up and 15 to 25 minutes for the training itself, you get both cardio and resistance training in one.

Definitely a "pro" in my books!

Better Weight Loss

If your goal is weight loss, you will do well to try HIIT!

A 2012 study examined the effects of HIIT on body fat, including trunk fat, fat-free mass, visceral fat, and total body fat. After just three 20-minute HIIT sessions per week for 12 weeks, the results were pretty epic:

  • Total fat mass decreased by an average of 2 kilograms
  • The participants lost 1.5 kilograms on average
  • Abdominal and trunk fat decreased by as much as 1.5 kilograms
  • Visceral fat decreased by 17%

All staggering weight loss results in just 12 weeks! Imagine if you could lose 2 kilograms (4.5 pounds) of not just overall weight, but SOLID FAT. Your body mass index would definitely decrease, putting you much closer to your target body mass.

Enhanced Metabolism

A fast metabolism means you burn more calories, and a slow metabolism means you burn fewer calories. Obviously, a fast metabolism is the far better choice.

HIIT can deliver!

In 2011, a study was published detailing the results of an HIIT program on 7 sedentary adults. All of the adults had similar body composition, weight, and muscle. After performing a daily HIIT session (6 days per week) for just 2 weeks, the participants' bodies responded visibly. Their muscles were better-able to create and use energy. As a bonus, their insulin sensitivity increased (see the section on Diabetes below…).

If you live a sedentary lifestyle (lots of hours spent sitting at a desk), HIIT may be just the thing to combat inactivity-related disorders and obesity. You can give your metabolism a boost and help your muscles to use energy more efficiently thanks to the high-intensity workouts!

Increase Aerobic Capacity

Your organs, tissues, muscles, brain and internal systems need two things to function properly: nutrients and oxygen. Nutrients come from the food you eat, and oxygen is absorbed via your lungs. Your bloodstream transports both of these things throughout your body.

HIIT helps to do two VERY important things:

  1. Increase circulation. All exercise increases your body's ability to transport nutrients, as it strengthens your heart, eliminates fat that could clog the blood vessels, and promote the dilation of your arteries and veins.
  2. Enhances oxygen uptake. Essentially, this means your lungs absorb more oxygen with every breath, and your heart delivers more oxygen via your bloodstream.

A 2015 study found that HIIT workouts helped to increase oxygen uptake WITHOUT (and this is important) increasing heart rate. This means your heart pumped more oxygen with each heartbeat, but the workout didn't increase the strain placed on your heart.

In another study, it was discovered that, in just eight weeks of HIIT training, athletes' anaerobic capacity improved significantly. Not only that, but it even helped to increase critical power among the athletes studied.

All this to say: HIIT makes your lungs more efficient at absorbing oxygen and your heart more effective at spreading it through your body!

More Calories Burned

The more calories you can burn every day, the better. A higher daily calorie burn means you can lose more weight without having to cut back drastically on your food intake. This will give you a much better chance of actually seeing the healthy weight loss you want.

A 2015 study found that HIIT training burned between 160 and 250 calories in 15 minutes, compared to 150 and 230 of sprint interval training (another form of HIIT). Now take that number and compare it to the calories you'd burn in an hour of another exercise, and you can see why HIIT is such a great option to torch calories like a boss.

You could also look at using a Flex Belt​ for added results!

Less Perceived Fatigue

What is the thing most likely to make you quit half-way through a workout? Aside from injuries, it's the PERCEPTION of exertion.

Fitness is truly a prime example of "mind over matter". If you're in the right headspace, you can keep pushing and training harder. If your heart's just not in it, you're more likely to give up. Your brain tells your body that you're tired when you've only used about 35 to 40% of your total energy, as it's the body's way to prevent total exhaustion. That's when it's time to push through the fatigue, but that's often easier said than done.

Thankfully, HIIT can help to reduce your perception of your fatigue (compared to other workouts), meaning it will take longer for you to FEEL ready to quit.

A 2015 study found that HIIT resistance training caused a lower "rating of perceived exertion" than Sprint Interval Training (another popular form of HIIT), yet at the same time it improved oxygen uptake and calories burned. Not only will you use more energy and have a more efficient body, but you'll feel LESS tired as you train.

In another study from the same year, it was discovered that both moderate and high-intensity bouts of exercise caused the same amount of perceived fatigue, but the high-intensity exercise yielded better results. Either way, you're going to feel tired after your workout--why not go "balls to the wall" with HIIT and get more bang for your buck before you're wiped out?

Boost Hormones

Your hormones play very important roles in your overall fitness, but no hormone is more important than testosterone.

For men and women both, testosterone increases muscle mass, decreases fat storage, and enhances metabolic function. Exercise (specifically resistance training) helps to increase testosterone levels, which will, in turn, lead to better muscular and cardiovascular condition.

A 2015 study found that HIIT training sessions helped to increase testosterone levels very effectively. After three weeks of three 60-minute HIIT rowing sessions per week, athletes saw an increase in total testosterone ranging from 16.7 to 29.4%. Not only that but their testosterone to cortisol ratio improved by 1.3 to 1.7%.

Exercise helps t increase hormones, but HIIT is the best of all!

Improved Overall Performance

For athletes, performance is more than just the ability to lift heavy weights or run fast. Aerobic and anaerobic capacity are significant markers in overall performance, but they aren't the only ones.

However, multiple studies have proven that HIIT training can improve sport-specific performance. For example, a 2016 study found that surfers were able to paddle faster after five weeks of both sprint interval and HIIT training. Even though the training was non-sport-specific, the benefits applied to the sport nonetheless!

If you're an athlete who wants to improve your skill at basketball, soccer, football, baseball, or pretty much any other sport, try HIIT training. The improvements in your muscular strength, muscular endurance, and cardiovascular endurance will translate to your sport, making you a better athlete overall.

Increase Speed

Speed plays a very important role in your performance of many, many sports. Soccer players have to sprint down the court at top speeds, as do basketball players (on a free break), and baseball players (trying to make it to the base or run after the ball). Pretty much every sport involves high speed running. The faster you are, the better an athlete you have the potential to be.

Here's good news: ALL HIIT training can help you to run faster.

It's obvious that a Sprint Interval Training program would help to increase your sprint speed, and a 2015 study proved it to be true. After just four weekly of 3-per-week sprint interval training sessions, athletes run a 5-km race 4.5% faster. Not only did they run faster, but their bodies were better able to handle the race, thanks to the nearly 5% improvement in oxygen uptake.

If you want to run faster, spend some time on HIIT training or Sprint Interval Training. Both will help to build serious lower body strength, increase your endurance, and make your body more efficient at using oxygen.

Better Stamina

How do marathon runners do it? How can they run when they should be so exhausted? After a solid 20-mile run, it seems unbelievable that they can keep going.

Well, it's all thanks to the human body's ability to adapt to our energy demands. People who NEED less energy (non-athletes and those who lead sedentary lifestyles) produce less energy and people who need more energy produce more energy.

In 2016, a study looked at how HIIT training could help to improve stamina. After just 4 weeks of regular HIIT training, the participants' neuromuscular fatigue threshold improved drastically. They were better able to keep working, thanks to the fact that the HIIT training caused their bodies to adapt to an increased need for energy.

Reduced Risk of Diabetes

We've seen how HIIT training can help to combat obesity and other metabolic disorders, but here's a bonus: it can reduce your risk of Type 2 Diabetes.

In a 2012 study, seven diabetic adults performed HIIT training for just one day. In that single instance of exercise, their blood sugar content improved significantly. On the day when they did no exercise, they had high blood sugar for up to 28% of the day. On the day that they did the HIIT workout, they had high blood sugar for than 9% of their day.

If you're worried about diabetes, now's the time to start doing the exercise of ANY sort--though HIIT is definitely a good place to start. And if you've already suffered from Type 2 Diabetes, don't sweat it! As this study proved, HIIT training may be just what you need to help you keep your blood sugar levels under control.

Following a specific workout routine can be hard, but always remember all the benefits it could give your body and health in the long run. Workouts like HIIT is something you should consider trying because the results it could give are not temporary. It's sure to be worth your while.

As you can see, HIIT workouts are DEFINITELY where it's at! You can improve your fitness, see serious weight/fat loss results, build muscle, and protect your body from cardiovascular and metabolic disorders. Time for you to hit the gym and get training with that HIIT workout…

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