If you are tired of the hour-long continuous and exhausting cardio routines that in reality are only getting you marginal results, then it’s definitely time you try HIIT (High intensity interval training).
While certainly not a new way to exercise, HIIT is undoubtedly making headlines now as more and more studies show it really is the best form of exercise in terms of both effectiveness and efficiency—even better than long-distance running, which can cause injuries over time.
When choosing an endurance and or/cardio exercise program, your major goal is likely to improve the cardiovascular, metabolic, and muscular function of your body.
We have been told for years that hard work, pushing ourselves to complete a continuous aerobic exercise is the best way to achieve these goals.
But, what if you could get the same or better results in half the time, and with less exhaustion?
Would you jump at the opportunity? Of course you would. And that is why so many people are looking to HIIT as their “go-to” form of exercise.
What is HIIT?
HIIT essentially combines two of the most effective fat-burning exercises in one program:
- High-intensity training, which pushes your body to maximum effort in order to achieve muscle fatigue and maximum oxygen use in the shortest amount of time and;
- Interval training, which alternates between periods of intense effort and then moderate-to-low intensity exercise.
Researchers suggests this form of training works best for several reasons.
Why It Works So Well
First, interval training significantly boosts your metabolism for longer periods than simply completing a steady workout of the same time or even longer—example: a 20 minute workout of alternating high/low-intensity periods burns more calories than a 20 minute workout of stead intensity.(1)
The reason is simply that the harder your muscles work, the more oxygen they require. And this is measured by your “VO2 max,” which is essentially the highest amount of oxygen your body can consume during any one exercise regime.
By working your body close to its VO2 max, it triggers what is termed as the “afterburn,” during which your body continues to consume oxygen, thus burning calories, even for up to 48 hours after your workout!(2)
Interval training also builds lean muscle tissue faster than steady cardio.(3)
Thus, by actually combining the two principles, you can not only maximize your fat-burning and muscle-building potential using shorter workouts, but you can also increase your metabolic rate, which will further enhance the amount of muscle you can build as well as how long you are able to retain that muscle while you increase the number of calories you burn— both during and after your workout.
HIIT Is Proven To Burn Fat!
One 2012 study on the effects of HIIT published in the Journal of Obesity showed that by completing only 12 weeks of HIIT, you will not only lose significant abdominal, trunk, and visceral fat (gathers around your internal organs), but you will significantly increase general fat-free mass and aerobic power.(4)
Further studies show that even if you are typically inactive, intense, brief exercise can produce an immediate and significantly measurable change in your DNA.(5)
And not surprisingly, many of the genes are linked to fat metabolism according to the study published in the journal Cell Metabolism.
What does this mean for you?
Ideally, it means that by exercising, your body can immediately activate a “genetic reaction” that naturally increase the production of fat-busting (lipolytic) enzymes.(6)
That is great news for anyone trying to lose those stubborn pounds. And for people who are essentially considered “unfit” but otherwise healthy, interval training (even just three sessions a week for two weeks), can improve their insulin sensitivity and blood sugar regulation according to a study published in Medicine and Science in Sports Exercise.(7)
And in a follow-up to this study, even people with type-2 diabetes were able to increase their insulin sensitivity for an entire 24 hours with a single training session.(8)
How Can You Get Started?
Often the mere thought of having to perform high intensity exercises for any period of time can seem overwhelming, especially if you are not in shape or you are older.
But don’t let this dissuade you from this highly beneficial form of exercise.
There is an easy way anyone, no matter what shape you are in, can start to implement HIIT into you daily routine.
Yes, that’s right.
According to a Japanese study, simply walking, especially in the elderly while combining some of the components of HIIT, can significantly improve your health and ward off disease.(9)
The HIIT Walking Program
Researchers at the University Graduate School of Medicine in Matsumoto, Japan, used the results of several HIIT studies to develop their own walking programs for the elderly.
The premise of these walking programs is to combine “fast walking” with “gentle strolling.”
Participants (between the ages of 44 and 78) complete repeated intervals of three minutes of fast walking with the intention of raising their exertion levels to 6 or 7 on a scale out of 10 and then walk slowly for three minutes.
In total, participants completed 30 minutes of walking, three times a week.(10)
The study further looked at a group of people in the same age group and with the same fitness level as the control group and asked them to walk at a continuous, moderate pace (about 4 on the exertion scale) and what they found is that after five months, the fitness and health of the group that did continuous, yet moderate walking, had hardly improved. The interval walkers, however, significantly improved both their aerobic fitness levels, but as well their overall leg strength and blood-pressure levels.
A follow-up of the participants, which was published in the Journal of Applied Physiology, actually showed that 70 percent of the participants continued to follow the program even two years later, likely due to the health benefits, but also the ease of the program in general compared to a continuous high-intensity aerobic workout.(11)
These studies show that anyone who has the ability to walk can now improve their fitness level.
There are no more excuses!
Over 10,000 independent studies even go so far as to show that frequent, prolonged sitting, like what most of us do at our desk jobs or when we commute to work or simply when we come home to “relax” in front of the TV, can “significantly impact our cardiovascular and metabolic function.
The new guidelines to remain healthy according to author and doctor, James Levine, co-director of Obesity Solutions at the Mayo Clinic in Phoenix and Arizona State University, is that you need at least 10 minutes of movement for every hour of sitting!(13)
10 Ways to Incorporate More Walking Into Your Day
- Take the stairs whenever possible.
- Opt for a parking spot that is further away from your destination rather than looking for that one right in front.
- Park your car in a central location and walk to all of the stores instead of driving.
- Find longer routes to your destination and change them up regularly.
- Squeeze in a walk with a friend or colleague at lunch.
- Walk part of your commute whenever possible
- Take work meetings outside when possible. Enjoy the fresh air and walk with your colleagues.
- Walk across the hall to talk to a co-worker instead of sending an email
- Take a longer, roundabout way to your desk
- Hold a walking challenge and challenge your friends to see who can walk the most in a day
A Final Note
A 2015 Australian study shows that walking can improve the overall quality of your life, especially for depressed middle-aged women.
On average, women who walk with a moderately intense gait for least 2.5 hours a week or simply walk over 3.25 hours a week at a normal pace, are generally more energized and more social and report less pain and greater fitness than those who do nothing.(14)
Walking has also been shown in studies to not only help with symptoms of depression in general for both men and women, but it can even prevent it.(15)
So put a pair of walking shoes in your car, and on your next lunch hour, strap them on and go for a stroll around the block. Your body (and your mind) will thank you.