While most of the world understands that physical activity is a good and healthy undertaking, close to one-third of people globally still do not get enough! Unless your 9 to 5 requires a lot of physically demanding tasks, having a dedicated fitness routine is your best bet at giving your body the workout it needs to stay healthy.
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The problem is that our busy, modern lifestyles conflict and can leave many of us without a lot of free time. This leads to many people feeling like they do not have enough time in their day to devote to proper exercise and activity. If you fall under this category, there’s a trending workout that can help remedy this. What if we told you that this type of workout can get you results for less than an hour of your time? Sound good? Well then, it's time to try High Intensity Interval Training or HIIT.
You have probably already heard the term thrown around here and there, but why should you integrate it into schedule? Here’s a quick refresher on what HIIT is about. HIIT, or High Intensity Interval Training, is a science backed way of training that utilizes alternating periods of high-intensity effort and periods of rest. This workout system burns more calories than your longer, traditional, steady-state workouts in just a fraction of the time. It's so efficient that just about 20 minutes of HIIT done properly can burn more calories and fat than jogging steadily on a treadmill for an hour! This is hands down one of the most efficient fat burners for time and can even help keep off the fat after the workout is done! If you want a more in-depth look introduction into what HIIT is and we have an article on that here.
Without further ado, here are some of the major benefits of High-Intensity Interval Training:
1. It’s Perfect for a Busy Schedule
In case we haven’t stressed it enough from our intro, HIIT is one of the most efficient ways to get a solid workout in. Whether you squeeze it into a break at work or you’re just trying to get in shape as quickly as you can, HIIT can help. Studies have shown that performing HIIT 3 times a week for two weeks can improve your aerobic capacity more than a traditional six to eight weeks of endurance training.
Even if you only have 5 minutes to spare in your day, you can still get a quality HIIT workout through the Tabata method. It's a style of HIIT that can be done almost wherever you are and whenever you need to. Simply pick an exercise, preferably one that will get you working hard, and set a timer for 20 seconds with an additional 10 seconds for rest. Do this same cycle for 8-20 times or however long your available time permits. The catch is you need to be working as hard as you possibly can during your sets for results. While in theory, it seems simple, this will probably be one of the tougher workouts you partake in. If you’re not close to exhaustion by the end, you aren't pushing yourself hard enough. You can apply this method to almost any exercise! Pick one you like and get to it!
2. HIIT is Great for Your Heart
HIIT can provide many health benefits, and improving your heart health is one of them. Most adults aren't used to pushing themselves into the anaerobic zone anymore (that great feeling when you’ve worked so hard where you can't breathe and your heart feels like it is beating through your chest). But HIIT workouts get you there consistently, which builds up your overall stamina and endurance.
Research also indicates that it can boost your heart by improving the amount of blood it pumps per beat as well as better your overall blood pressure. This is because the intense nature of HIIT increases the flexibility and elasticity of your arteries much better than traditional continuous exercise. It does this by dramatically increasing the pressure demand on your blood vessels which condition them as well.
With heart disease accounting for near one-fourth of deaths in the United States, improving your cardiovascular health seems like the responsible thing to do. Putting some time into HIIT workouts can prove to be a great investment down the road.
3. You can Gain Muscle Through HIIT
In addition to shredding fat, HIIT can help increase the muscle mass in certain individuals. Now obviously results will vary as it is heavily dependent on what exercise you choose to perform, but studies have shown that these particular workouts produce muscle building anabolic hormones. This makes it a nice way of developing lean muscle.
Many HIIT workouts will involve plenty of different movements. This is beneficial because it allows you to work out different groups of muscles during the same workout. An example would be a routine that will have you doing squats, pushups, and burpees which all target different muscle groups. The level of intensity will aid in building your muscles and boost their ability to keep exercising.
A 2017 study showed results in which a six-week HIIT program improved overall muscle power in men by over 8%. The study, published by Endocrine Connections, measured power through PPO, or peak power output. Before participating in the program, the average ppo was at 799 watts. After sticking to the HIIT workout, it increased to 865 watts.
Not surprisingly, when combined with its efficient fat-burning properties, HIIT is a great way at building and maintaining muscle mass while losing fat. Although it is important to note that if your goal is strict to build muscle, weight training still continues to be the best way to attain it. But high-intensity interval training can definitely support muscle growth as well, especially if you haven't been active in a while.
4. HIIT can Help You Burn Calories After Your Workout
Not only has this training proven itself to zap body fat faster and more efficiently, but HIIT workouts also rev up your metabolism. Wondering why this is beneficial for you? Several studies have demonstrated that when done properly, HIIT workouts will have your body working into overdrive. The bursts of increased intensity simply improve the level at which your body expends calories. The increased level at which your metabolism works is carried over well into post-workout. The studies show that your body can continue burning calories at a “workout-level rate” for about 2 hours after you’ve put the weights away.
This seemingly magical occurrence of burning calories after you stop exercising is called excess post-exercise oxygen consumption, or EPOC for short. This is when your body burns more calories healing the stress it has endured after a particularly intense workout. Not surprisingly, it is often linked with HIIT workouts because the exercise is so intense.
5. HIIT can Improve Mental Health
While it is very true that all forms of exercise can improve the mental health of whoever is doing them, HIIT may edge out the competition once again. While keeping to a healthy exercise regimen is definitely recommended, there are some other things you can try to help take care of yourself.
A study suggests that HIIT can provide a range of benefits for people suffering from mental illness, citing a reduction in the severity in those with depression specifically. This is due to the fact that many suffering from depression or other mental illnesses oftentimes have low motivation to do tasks, exercise included. The reason for this is that they believe it was too time consuming and they would not see the results they want.
Short HIIT workouts can help remedy the issue and help them overcome difficulty with their motivation and their struggle with timing. An experiment was done that recorded the effects of an 8 week HIIT program on those affected. The patients were required to complete 3 workouts a week, with each one consisting of about 15 minutes.
The results after the program were completed show significant improvements to both mental and physical health. Some of these were a lower resting heart rate, decreased blood pressure, improved mental scores, reduced levels of depression, decreased BMI (body mass index), lower body weight, and a lower likelihood to avoid social situations.
6. You’re More Likely to Stick to it
HIIT has gained traction in the fitness world for a reason, and the general consensus is that HIIT is more enjoyable than your traditional medium-intensity, steady-state exercise. It could be for any of the benefits we have posted here, but a large proponent of it probably is that you can get better results in half the time.
People lead busy lifestyles and we are looking to reclaim any free time where we can. We’d all love a little extra time for a little rest and relaxation and cutting workout time in half without sacrificing results can help get us there! But even beyond getting an incredibly efficient workout for your time, you’ll be more consistent with your workouts which is huge. Consistency is key when it comes to seeing results in the gym and it’s no secret, we are more likely to stick to something if it is something we love. Just be sure to have the proper workout clothes for the occasion.