We are all looking for the quickest way to get in the best shape possible, but most ‘get fit quick’ workouts are not that effective. However, High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) is proven to work-and has nearly miraculous results.
Let’s start with the basics. HIIT is exactly what its name says – bursts of intense cardio followed by equal or longer periods of rest. There are multiple forms of HIIT workouts, some even involve using free weights, but all workouts share common results: improved fitness, lowered risk for cardiovascular disease, weight loss, skeletal muscle strengthening and better blood sugar moderation. HIIT is equally as effective as longer periods of exercise, such as cycling, swimming or running.
“We now have more than 10 years of data showing HIIT yields pretty much the exact same health and fitness benefits as long-term aerobic exercise, and in some groups or populations, it works better than traditional aerobic exercise,” Todd Astorino, a professor of Kinesiology at California State University, San Marcos, who has published more than a dozen study papers on HIIT, told Time.
A minute of HIIT performed three days a week for six weeks significantly improved blood sugar scores and aerobic capacity, in one study conducted on a group of healthy but sedentary people. The participants went “all-out” on a stationary bike for 10-to-20-second intervals and then rested for a couple of minutes in between. All told, the entire workout was only 10 minutes long. The health benefits are not limited to the young and fit either, as one review study showed that HIIT could nearly double cardiorespiratory fitness in people with heart disease, compared to longer stretches of moderate-intensity running.
It works because your heart cannot pump enough blood around your body during intense workouts. As a result of the lack of oxygen delivered to your muscles, a gene that increases the growth of mitochondria is activated. This triggers all sorts of biological changes throughout your body. Normally this can only be achieved with long stretches of cardio, but HIIT tricks the body to turn on those genes.
Best of all? It’s totally safe. Time reports that Ulrik Wisløff, an HIIT researcher and head of the cardiac exercise research group at the Norwegian School of Science and Technology, and his colleagues “analyzed nearly 50,000 hours of HIIT data collected from cardiovascular disease patients in Norway. In seven years of data, he turned up just two instances of (non-fatal) cardiac arrest.”
However, Wisløff did warn that “people with unstable angina or serious heart issues should speak with their doctor first.”
Now that you understand what HIIT does, and know that it’s safe you’re probably wondering what types of exercise can you do. We’ve got you covered.
SPRINT INTERVAL TRAINING
Warm up with a slow jog or a nice-paced walk. Then sprint as fast as you can for 30 seconds, then slow to a walk or a light jog for four minutes. That’s a set, and you’ll want to repeat that about four to six times. You can increase the workout by lowering the recovery time between sets to two minutes, but start off slow and ease yourself into a more intense workout.
Stand with your feet hip-width apart and your arms flat against your side. Squat while you reach for the floor. Hold that position and rotate 45 degrees to the left, then to the center, and finally to the right. When you’re back to center you’ve completed the set. Do as many of those as you can in 20 seconds, then rest for 30 seconds and repeat.
Spread your feet hip-width, keeping your hands in front of your chest, but your arms bent out to the side. Then you jump as high as you can, tucking your knees up towards your chest. Land in the same position in which you began. Once again, you’ll do as many of those as you can in 20 seconds, then rest for 30 seconds and repeat.