High intensity intermittent training (HIIT) is the way to go when doing cardio. Advocates praise this way of training, which combines short intervals at very high intensity with the same duration or higher recovery lapses, as the most effective way to do aerobic workout no matter if you are walking, running, cycling or using the StairMaster machine.
Will HIIT actually allow regular people who want to lose some pounds and get a decent fit body to achieve faster results? How does HIIT compare to the traditional low-moderate intensity and longer duration type of cardio?
A study from Laval University, Canada, shows that when subjects were assigned to two groups, either to an endurance-training (ET) program or HIIT program, the latter induced a more pronounced reduction in subcutaneous adiposity compared with the ET program.
They conclude that “these results reinforce the notion that for a given level of energy expenditure, vigorous exercise favors negative energy and lipid balance to a greater extent than exercise of low to moderate intensity.”
Here is a sample HIIT workout from a previous post.
Keep burning calories
If trimming some fat quicker isn’t what moves you to train hard on the elliptical machine, Hassane Zouhal, professor in the Department of Sports Sciences at the University of Rennes 2 ENS Cachan, France, points out in his article “High Intensity Exercise for Overweight and Obese People” that only two weeks of HIIT on a cycle ergometer substantially improved a number of metabolic and vascular risk factors.
He adds that some of the HITT benefits are:
a) Time: Shorter duration total workout may be easier to fit in a busy schedule
b) More entertaining than a monotonous cardio routine
c) More muscles involved, which impacts overall strength and body composition.
Indeed the body composition may not be just affected for the total caloric expenditure while working out but also after working out. A research published by the American College of Sports Medicine reports that 45-minute bout of vigorous exercise can boost a person’s energy expenditure for up to 14 hours.
“We found that 45 minutes vigorous exercise caused 190 additional calories to be burned in the day while the participants were at rest,” says David Neiman, Ph.D., lead investigator of the study.
What’s the perfect HIIT combination?
By now you should be sold on the idea of doing some HIIT, but do you know what high intensity really means? And how long should the duration of the intervals be? The answers to these questions are critical. Otherwise you may be ended up doing less than what you used to do with your longer low to moderate cardio sessions.
A study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research proves that to achieve a longer duration, higher oxygen consumption and less metabolic by products that hinder the continuity of the workout, you should go no longer than 30 seconds at high intensity (90 percent of the maximal power output MPO) with 30 seconds recovery at 50 percent of the MPO for around 30 minutes in addition to 10 minutes light warm-up. This interval combination was better than others, such as a 3-minute high intensity period followed by 3 minutes of recovery.
The key to a fitter body or losing the last 10 pounds may be in adding some HIIT to your exercise routine. However, to perform a truly high intensity interval you should feel an overall discomfort in the tough part of the interval. This may increase the risk of injury if you haven’t built up an overall fitness foundation yet.
Mix up the HIIT with some steady, longer duration cardio to balance off your routine while keep seeing the results you want.
Marta Montenegro is an exercise physiologist, certified strength and conditioning, coach and master trainer who is an adjunct professor at Florida International University. Marta has developed her own system of exercises used by professional athletes. Her personal website martamontenegro.com, combines fitness, nutrition and health tips, exercise routines, recipes and the latest news to help you change your life but not your lifestyle. She was the founder of nationally awarded SOBeFiT magazine and the fitness DVD series Montenegro Method.