HIIT Training: Is it the Best for Getting Results?

I was recently asked, “I hear all the time that HIIT is so much more beneficial for losing weight than straight lower intensity cardio. Why is that?  Is it also true that you don’t need to or shouldn’t do HIIT for as long of a time period?”
I planned to reply with a link to an article I had written on the subject- and found that there was none. I’ve touched on the subject when I dispelled the fat burning myth, and when I gave advice on how to get fit in less time, but have never written specifically on the how, what & why of high intensity interval training, and now I am.
High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) is a form of cardiovascular training where you give maximum effort for a short amount of time, followed by intervals of recovery.
HIIT workouts are effective because they put the body into oxygen debt during the workout, which increases the body’s demand for oxygen for as much as 48 hours after the workout, as the body recovers. This is known as “Excess Post Exercise Oxygen Consumption”, commonly known as the ‘after burn’, or simply, a quicker metabolism.
Here are four reasons why I recommend HIIT to clients that we work with:
1. It’ll boost your metabolism. After a workout, your metabolism will be revved up for up to 48 hours- which translates to a greater calorie burn when you’re not working out.  
2. They’re fast. The old mindset tells us that we need to workout for 30-60 minutes to make it worth it. New research (and real life case studies) tells us otherwise. Focus on efficiency, and you can get the benefits of a workout (including weight loss) in 10-20 minutes. This is very good news if you want results, but don’t want to spend hours each week doing cardio training.
3. Less Boring. Whenever someone tells me they find running on the treadmill or working out on a stationary bike boring, I tell them they’re not working hard enough. There’s nothing boring about HIIT workouts. Instead of trundling along at a moderate, steady pace for 30-60 minutes, you’re going all out for 10-30 seconds. And if you have time to focus on anything but pushing yourself, you could probably go harder. The changes of pace, and intensity of the workout take the boredom away.
4. You can do it anywhere. If you’re in your hotel room, you can do 10-30 seconds of squat jumps. If you’re in the pool you can do ½ to a full lap all out. If you’re on cardio equipment you can simply go hard for a short amount of time. If you’re at the bottom a hill or stairs you can sprint up.
Are they more beneficial for losing weight than straight lower intensity cardio?
It’s sort of like asking which car is best for driving: a Ferrari or an 8-passenger mini-van. Both can be good, depending on the situation. If you’re new to exercise, it’s best to start with lower intensity exercise and not jump right into HIIT workouts. And if you struggle getting out at all because you hate exercise, you may not be inspired to give 100{2b5efc2dfd6f746083e0b4737cc27a283af0896f749c2b426ffd8dffe89bfddb} effort right way. The type of exercise you do is only one factor in the weight loss equation. Hormones, stress, sleep, nutrition, genetics, mindset and overall activity level will also affect your body’s ability to shed pounds.
The benefits of HIIT workouts don’t necessarily make it ‘better than’ lower intensity cardio. Ideally, your workout program would have a mix of both. After all if all your workouts were high intensity, it would make going out for a run with a friend and chatting the whole time, enjoying a hike in the local trails or an afternoon whilst listening to a podcast hard to do.
Here are three high intensity interval workouts to get you started.
1. Tabata Training. It’s simple: set your timer for 20 seconds of ‘work’ and ‘rest’, 8 rounds. The total time for a Tabata interval is 3 minutes and 50 seconds, which pretty much takes care of the ‘I’m too busy’ excuse. Pick any exercise that will get your heart rate up. You can sprint, do squat jumps, burpees, pick up the pace on the bike, or do a full body strength exercise such as a squat to press.
2. Body Weight Blast. Pick 4 exercises like body weight cardio exercises such as squat jumps, burpees, skater hops and mountain climbers. Perform each exercise as hard as you can (complete as many good quality reps as you can) for 30 seconds. Take 15 seconds rest and move onto the next exercise. After you’ve completed each exercise once, take 1-minute rest and repeat the circuit for 3-4 rounds. For a tough body weight workout, with video tutorials, go to ascendfitnesscoaching.com/workout
3. The “Sexy Bunny” Workout. This quick workout is best done outside on a flat surface. After a warm up, do 30 seconds of forward squat jumps or walking lunges. Right away, sprint for 30 seconds. Take 30-60 seconds to recover and repeat for 6-10 rounds. You’ll feel it in your butt the next day!
Tanja Shaw is a health and fitness coach, Rotarian, passionate entrepreneur, mom, runner, and owner of Ascend Fitness Inc. and host of the Fit & Vibrant You Podcast. Tanja and her team of expert fitness coaches inspire and coach others to become stronger, more confident and energetic versions of themselves. Visit Tanja at www.ascendfitnesscoaching.com and www.tanjashaw.com.
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