High-intensity interval training (HIIT) has become an extremely popular form of cardio exercise – favoured by those with busy schedules looking for a time-efficient and highly effective way of working out. Proven to build strength and fitness levels, boost mood and improve metabolism, HIIT is often praised by the media as the ‘ultimate’ calorie burner. But is this an overstatement?
What exactly is a HIIT workout?
If you’ve ever been to a group workout class, it’s likely you’ve done HIIT even without realising. HIIT workouts are an anaerobic form of training which incorporate short bursts of intense work followed by regular rest periods. The average HIIT session will last around 20-30 minutes, requiring little to no equipment and really can be done anywhere.
The activity being performed is up to you, but common variations include sprints, cycling or bodyweight exercises.
Example bodyweight HIIT session:
- 40 seconds of Jumping Jacks – 20 seconds rest
- 40 seconds of Push ups – 20 seconds rest
- 40 seconds of Burpees – 20 seconds rest
- Repeat x10
Is it really the ‘ultimate’ calorie burner?
HIIT can definitely be a time-efficient calorie burner. Many studies have shown that a 20-minute HIIT session can burn the same amount of calories compared to longer periods of less intense, steady-state exercise, like jogging. As many of us struggle to carve out the time for a workout, HIIT certainly offers an alternative way of reaching your fat-loss goals.
There is also research to suggest that HIIT can increase your metabolic rate even after you’ve finished working out. A study by the National Institute of Health¹ found just two minutes of sprint-interval exercises can increase your metabolism over 24 hours just as much as a 30-minute jog.
So, what’s the catch?
There’s no denying that most people would prefer a 20-minute workout over a 40-minute workout if they achieved the same results. Sounds like a no brainer, right? However, it’s important to remember that HIIT definitely isn’t the easy option – you need to be prepared to work at a much higher intensity to compensate for the reduced amount of time working out.
Put simply, HIIT isn’t HIIT unless your heart rate reaches a minimum of 80% of its maximum capacity. This is where a personal trainer can come in handy, to formulate a regime that works for you, and ensure that you’re staying motivated during your HIIT workouts.
It’s worth noting that a base level of fitness is required before trying HIIT, and the rest/work ratio should be built up slowly to avoid injury and maintain good form.
HIIT me with the final verdict…
HIIT is a fun, versatile and flexible way to achieve fitness goals, without having to sacrifice time elsewhere in our busy lives. Incorporating HIIT training into your exercise regime can be a fantastic way to burn a lot of calories in a short space of time, but it’s worth pointing out that there are many different types of calorie burning cardio that work for different people. HIIT can be very intense, and although time is precious, people may enjoy a lengthier more meditative style of exercise such as running, walking or strength training.