The popularity of high intensity interval training is increasing dramatically. These are also referred to as HIIT workouts.  For those who want to bring their fitness to a new level, or for those who want the benefits of exercise without having to workout or run for 45 minutes a day, high intensity training might be just what your doctor should have ordered.

The basic premise of HIIT workout is that you have short bursts (20 seconds)  of intense exercise.  That means getting your heart rate up near 90% of its maximum. You follow that intense burst with a period of much more relaxing exercise for 1-2 minutes, then you repeat this three times.  That’s just one minute of intense exercise 3 times a week… perhaps jut once a week when you start out.

Benefits of HIIT exercise

The health benefits of any exercise program include:

  • Better blood sugar control (less risk of diabetes)
  • Better cardiovascular fitness (walk those stairs without huffing and puffing)
  • Improved blood pressure
  • Getting the same psychological boost as a runner who needs to run for an hour.
  • A decrease in abdominal body fat- the most lethal form.

Scientists used to believe the only way to realize these benefits was with a program of 30 minutes of exercise 5 days a week.  Over the last few years, the research has shown that you can achieve the same benefits with as few as 3 HIIT workouts per week.  Since each HIIT program takes 10 minutes that eliminates the “no time” excuse :-)

Science has also shown HIIT workouts will benefit the experiences cyclist or runner and can help them achieve a higher level of fitness.

How To Exercise using HIIT Principles

Now.. many of you might not have a heart rate monitor, and may not know your maximum heart rate.  That’s OK.  You can assess those 20 second bursts by your perception of the intensity or how you feel.  You should feel like you’re moving at your maximum pace – imagine being chased by a mountain lion.  During the cool down 2 minute sessions you should be able to talk without having to catch your breath.  You should wait until you can be conversational and your heart rate nears your normal rate before the second and third burst of exercise.  You CAN do this!  For those of you who never exercised or who have a history of heart disease this program has been found to be safe… but you should check with your doctor first.

Now you’re wondering how to accomplish these fast intervals.  You can use an exercise bike, an elliptical, treadmill or take it out on the road.   You just need an activity which will raise your heart rate.  Running stairs at work is an effective strategy too.

HIIT and Exercise: The Best Medicine

The benefits of HIIT or high intensity exercise are profound.  It is far cheaper than any pill… and often times is better than most of the pills you take to control your blood sugar and blood pressure.  I have witnessed plenty of people being able to come off of their medications (under their physicians care) with appropriate lifestyle changes which include high intensity exercise.

Can you find 10 minutes to exercise 2-3 times per week?  I imagine you can.  Now go to your closet ….

Want to learn more about the basics of HIIT exercise and how to get started… see this page on where to begin your HIIT journey. 

Disclaimer:  this information is for your education and should not be considered medical advice regarding diagnosis or treatment recommendations. Some links on this page may be affiliate links. Read the full disclaimer.

Related Posts

About the author:

Howard J. Luks, MD

Howard J. Luks, MD

A Board Certified Orthopedic Surgeon in Hawthorne, NY. Dr. Howard Luks specializes in the treatment of the shoulder, knee, elbow, and ankle. He has a very "social" patient centric approach and believes that the more you understand about your issue, the more informed your decisions will be. Ultimately your treatments and his recommendations will be based on proper communications, proper understanding, and shared decision-making principles – all geared to improve your quality of life.