Why You Should Do High Intensity Interval Training

By: Musola Oniyide, physical therapist, Barnabas Health Ambulatory Care Center

If you are considering beginning an exercise regimen, you might be overwhelmed by many options. Different forms of exercise have their pros and cons to consider. To help you along this process, this blog will discuss High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) and why you might consider it as your choice of physical activity.

High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) is an exercise program in which exercises are performed at a high intensity for a brief period of time, followed by periods of rest. While there are variations in HIIT which can be adjusted for a person’s activity level, the process is generally as follows:

  • A person will perform push-ups for a full 30 seconds followed by 30-60 seconds of rest.
  • After the rest period they will perform a different exercise for 30 seconds followed by a rest period.
  • This cycle can repeat itself for 5-7 exercises which would equal one round.
  • A full workout can include about 3-5 rounds.

Exercise in general has health benefits and HIIT does too. The benefits of HIIT include, but are not limited to improvements in:

  • aerobic fitness,
  • cardiovascular health,
  • insulin health,
  • cholesterol, and
  • muscle mass.

Additionally, HIIT will yield more caloric burning than other forms of exercise. When considering health, it’s important to consider these benefits. These benefits could be protective against developing chronic medical conditions as well.

As previously stated, HIIT has variations which can be adjusted to fit a person’s activity level and physical conditions. If someone has been sedentary, they can adjust their HIIT workout to consist of preliminary exercises. For example, instead of performing a deep squat a person can perform sit to stand from a chair. The rest period between each exercise can be lengthened as well. These same adjustments can be made if a person cannot physically do an exercise. For example, instead of performing a forearm plank, the plank can be modified to a person being on their knees. Considering these factors, HIIT is accessible to all people, provided the appropriate adjustments are made.

In addition to the other benefits, HIIT can be performed anywhere and in a short amount of time. Provided a HIIT workout does not need any fitness equipment, it can be performed in any environment. This can be attractive for people who may not like a gym environment or do not have time to travel to the gym. Since HIIT workouts can range from 20 to 60 minutes, they can easily fit into a person’s schedule. Other forms of exercise may require at least 45 minutes of exercise to reap any health benefits. The advantage HIIT has is that just 20 minutes can yield the health benefits listed above.

Based on all the information, if you choose HIIT as your mode of exercise, you definitely have made a shrewd decision. However, depending on your current fitness level and health condition(s), you may have to consider if HIIT is safe for you. If you have not been consistently exercising in the last few months you will need to make sure your rest periods are longer and the rounds of exercise are less. It would behoove you to condition your body first, then progress the level of intensity. If you have a significant health condition, it is recommended you consult a physical therapist or a primary care physician beforehand. HIIT is a great choice for exercise; just remember you don’t have to do it alone.