Is H.I.I.T (High Intensity Interval Training) Good For You?
In a word… YES. However, like any form of intense activity, H.I.I.T doesn’t come without its risks. It needs to be structured so that you’re using as many muscle groups as possible in any one movement and should also be ideally structured in your week to allow enough time for recovery. After all, your efforts in a true H.I.I.T workout should be as hard as you can possibly push yourself for a set period of time. Thats pretty taxing on the body!
Lets look at some benefits to H.I.I.T…
H.I.I.T can burn a lot of calories in a short amount of time
One study, comparing the calories burned during H.I.I.T using intervals of 20 seconds maximum effort, followed by 40 seconds of rest, found that 25-30% more calories were burned doing 30 mins H.I.I.T compared to 30 mins of weight training, running, and biking.
Your metabolic rate is higher for hours after H.I.I.T
H.I.I.T has been proven to increase your metabolism after exercise more so than jogging and weight training, as well as shift the body’s metabolism toward using fat for energy rather than carbs.
H.I.I.T can help you lose fat
High-intensity intervals can produce similar fat loss to traditional endurance exercise, but over a much smaller time frame. Interestingly, in some studies, H.I.I.T has been shown to reduce visceral fat (dangerous fat surrounding your organs), by 17%.
H.I.I.T can improve oxygen consumption
Oxygen consumption refers to your muscles’ ability to use oxygen, and endurance training is typically used to improve your oxygen consumption. H.I.I.T can improve oxygen consumption as much as traditional endurance training (long runs and bike rides), even if you only exercise half as long.
Now that’s four pretty darn good reasons H.I.I.T can be beneficial for you, and maybe you just read that and thought to yourself, “Let me at it! I have to do this!”
Hold on a second! Back the truck up! Yes they are extremely amazing benefits. But as i stated earlier, its INTENSE! You absolutely must be giving your system ample recovery time afterwards. People can become so captivated by the short time takes to complete most H.I.I.T sessions, that they end up doing it much more frequently than needed. In that scenario, joints can pay the price! Soft tissue injuries can be common early on, and lead to more serious joint problems down the track IF we’re not allowing time for recovery.
And how about internally? H.I.I.T can put an incredible strain on your nervous system. The intensity required is so demanding that inadequate recovery could mean you become more susceptible to various illnesses and sickness. Not ideal when you’re trying to stay consistent! I believe H.I.I.T should be performed no more than twice per week, three at the absolute most!
I guess the take home message is that yes, H.I.I.T can be very beneficial for you.. but use caution. Listen to your body. Don’t over prescribe. And plan your week to allow the body time to recover. Utilise activities between sessions that move the body back into the parasympathetic nervous system like yoga, meditation or breathing exercises.
Remember, the goal should be to remain consistent. Not beat ourself to a pulp for a period of time which then leads to needing to take time away from your health and fitness regime.