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How Does High-Intensity Interval Training Work

Whether you are a fitness freak or just getting started with improving your overall fitness, you must have heard about high-intensity interval training a.k.a HIIT. In the last decade, HIIT has secured a spot on the top fitness trends and you can find a list of HIIT routines on almost every popular workout session whether you follow a fitness coach, watch YouTube videos, or learn through a fitness training app.


However, most people don’t know how HIIT actually works, why it is so beneficial, and whether they are supposed to do it. In this article, we will explain all the important details that you need to learn about HIIT to get started.

What is HIIT?

High-intensity interval training refers to workout sessions that consist of short bursts of intense exercise along with periods of lower-intensity exercise or rest. The total HIIT session can be anywhere from 10 to 30 minutes with intense periods of 1-5 minutes and recovery periods of 3-5 minutes.


For an exercise session to qualify as HIIT, your heart rate must reach at least 80 percent of your maximum capacity during the intense periods. Sometimes, you may reach 100 percent of your heart’s capacity as well. This type of training gets your heart rate up and keeps it high for longer which results in a variety of health benefits.

How is a HIIT routine structured?

High-intensity interval training requires no weights or machines and can be performed using only your body weight. As a result, these can be performed almost anywhere. The difference between high-intensity interval training and steady-state, continuous types of exercise is the inclusion of intervals.


Thus, an example HIIT session may start with a warm-up of 10 minutes, followed by 4 minutes of vigorous exercise such as sprints to get your heart rate rising up to at least 80 percent of your maximum followed by a 3 minute recovery period such as walking or jogging and would end with a cool-down period of 5 minutes.

How does HIIT help your body?

Here are a few benefits of doing high-intensity interval training:


  1. It improves your heart health - According to researchers, HIIT training provides considerable cardio-respiratory health benefits in much less time compared to traditional cardio exercise sessions. Basically, interval training helps to boost your VO2 max, which is a measure of endurance that signifies the maximum volume of oxygen that your body can utilize.


In fact, VO2 max is one of the best predictors of your overall health and calculates how much blood your heart can pump and when you would run out of breath while doing activities such as swimming or running.


  1. It improves your metabolism - It is well-documented that HIIT leads to an ‘afterburn’ effect a.k.a excess post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC) due to the need for more oxygen in the blood. EPOC can boost your metabolism for up to 48 hours after the exercise session. As a result, it can help you burn fat and calories even when you are resting.


  1. It may help you lose fat - A study which consisted of 424 overweight adults and 13 experiments have shown that people who performed HIIT at least 3 times a week for 20 minutes per session were able to lose 2 kgs or 4.4 pounds of body fat without any dietary changes in just 12 weeks.


Thus, HIIT has proven to be more effective than traditional moderate-intensity training for reducing body fat.


  1. It might help you gain muscle - It has been observed that less active individuals can improve muscle growth by doing HIIT, primarily in the body parts that were used the most actively during the HIIT sessions. However, it cannot be compared to weight training for raw muscle gains.


  1. It helps to improve oxygen consumption - Typically, long sessions of endurance training are recommended to improve the ability of your muscles to utilize oxygen. However, it has been observed that people can get the same benefits by performing short sessions of high-intensity interval training. In fact, the HIIT sessions took only half the amount of time to produce similar improvements.


  1. It helps to reduce blood sugar - Studies have shown that HIIT sessions can not only reduce blood sugar levels but also improve insulin resistance much more effectively than traditional continuous exercise sessions. This is especially helpful for people suffering from type 2 diabetes.


High-intensity interval training offers numerous health benefits and is incredibly useful to people who don’t have enough time to exercise for more than 20-30 minutes a day. The best part is that you don’t require any special equipment or weights to get started.