Get into High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)

Have you ever wondered what that person is up to, sprinting back and forth and then resting? Think they look fantastic? They’re not crazy, they are doing HIIT! 

High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) is all the rage at the moment, and for a very good reason – it gets results, fast!  

Exercise professionals, athletic coaches, personal trainers and group fitness instructors have taken the methods of HIIT and implemented these into cardio, circuit and strength sessions. This increases fitness levels and metabolism and helps fat loss quickly.  

HIIT can be performed in many different ways - from cycling, treadmill, cross trainer to running outdoors, swimming and circuit sessions. 

At both AQN and AQBH, all cycle classes are based on the HIIT protocol which gets the best out of class participants. Aqualink Nunawading’s current Tabata classes are also based on HIIT. 

So what is the secret? It’s simple - a short burst of maximum effort followed by a rest period, then repeat.  

Typical HIIT sessions last anywhere from 4 minutes up to 30 minutes. Work to rest ratios vary depending on fitness ability and experience of the person taking part in the workout.  

Example of HIIT

  • Begin with a ratio of work to rest of 1:2. This is a good start. For example; 20 sec sprint: 40 sec recovery. Over time bring this to a 1:1 ratio eg. 30 sec sprint:30 sec recovery. Then, take it up to 2:1 eg. 20 sec sprint: 10 sec recovery.  
  • Ultimately, you are in control of your workout – you decide the time period for each maximal effort and recovery phase. The most important factor is that the work phase is a maximum effort. The recovery is then a quick chance to catch your breath before going again. Watch the clock and don’t let the short recovery phase double or triple.

Why should you do it?  

  • Increase in aerobic ability – your fitness will go through the roof. Studies have shown significant increases in fitness after participants completed as little as seven interval sessions.
  • Increase in metabolism – Metabolism is your body’s ‘engine’. This is what burns energy throughout the day. The higher your metabolism, the more your body requires energy. The more energy you burn, the greater your weight loss capacity. Studies have shown that when HIIT is compared to steady state exercise (slow long distance cardio exercise) participants have significant reductions in total body fat and abdominal fat.
  • Decrease in cardiovascular disease – HIIT has been shown to decrease blood pressure and cholesterol which are key markers for cardiovascular diseases such as high blood pressure, angina and heart attacks. Any exercise is good exercise for these risk factors, but HIIT decreases them at a faster rate (note safety guidelines below)
  • Improve insulin sensitivity – this decreases the risk of diabetes and also allows the body to effectively control blood glucose levels. Anyone who is prediabetic or diabetic needs to control their blood glucose levels.  HIIT allows the body to control this through the release and use of insulin.
  • Decrease in fat –many weight loss programs involve crash dieting and slow cardio. This will help to lose weight quickly, however a lot of this weight loss is water from muscle, not the dangerous fat around our vital organs. To increase health and appearance it is more beneficial to decrease fat and maintain muscle mass. HIIT produces hormones that maintain lean muscle, and also burn through fat, not only during the exercise session but for up to 48 hours after the session has been completed. 

Safety guidelines

HIIT training is high intensity; therefore those who are familiar with a sedentary lifestyle or are overweight may have an increased coronary disease risk. Family history, cigarette smoking, high blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol levels and obesity will increase the risk. Medical clearance is advised for anyone prior to beginning an intense exercise regime, or any training for that matter. 

HIIT is hard work, but nothing great was ever achieved without effort. Adding a couple of interval sessions to your exercise regime will increase your fitness and assist in reducing fat. Give it a go!