On Your Health

Check back to the INTEGRIS On Your Health blog for the latest health and wellness news for all Oklahomans.

What is a HIIT Workout?

Looking for a workout that promises to burn more calories quickly while building strength and endurance? High-intensity interval training promises to do just that, but this super-effective workout isn’t for the faint of heart. You take your cardio workout to the next level, working at a very intense pace that takes you out of your comfort zone.

The upside to HIIT is that you’ll build muscle, boost your metabolism and burn a ton of calories in a shorter amount of time.

What are HIIT workouts?

High-intensity interval training (HIIT) is a workout that include intense bursts of cardio activity alternated with a certain period of less-intensive moves. For example, beginners can run as fast as they can for a minute and then walk for two minutes, repeating the sequence five times. Even though it seems simple, this 15-minute workout burns a lot of calories.

HIIT workouts can be done with any type of cardio machine like the elliptical or treadmill or with your own body by running, doing jumping jacks or using a jump rope. The key is to reach a high-intensity level in short spurts of 30 seconds to three minutes.

While the workouts seem short (they don’t when you are doing them!) research shows these types of workouts are some of the most effective. You can burn more calories in a mere 15 minutes of interval training done three times a week than jogging on the treadmill for an hour.

A 2011 study presented at the annual meeting of the American College of Sports Medicine showed that just two weeks of HIIT can improve the average person’s aerobic capacity as much as eight weeks of endurance training does. This workout can also help you build muscle if you incorporate weight-lifting as a high-intensity activity.

The added benefit of HIIT is the continued burn after the workout. Just one 15-minute HIIT exercise can make your body’s metabolism ramp up for 24 hours afterward, burning fat and calories even as your body recovers.

A HIIT workout is so effective because it stresses your cardiovascular system and increases your body’s need for oxygen. Because the intense effort causes an oxygen shortage, your body tries to replenish itself during the rest periods. However, your body doesn’t have time to fully recover before the next interval begins, creating an effect called “Excess Post-Exercise Oxygen Consumption.” You’ll burn fat for hours after as the body eats up oxygen to recover.

How do I get started?

If you are a beginner, you can start out slow and add more intervals as you begin to get stronger. A good place to start for beginners is with a 1:2 ratio of work to rest. Basically, find your favorite cardio exercise and go all out for 30 seconds to a minute. Rest for twice as long and then do the second set.

As an example, start out by running at a full sprint or jumping rope for 30 seconds followed by a minute of low-intensity walking. No equipment required!

Remember, the key to HIIT’s effectiveness is intensity. No slacking off here. To help see whether you’re working hard enough, use a rate of perceived exertion (RPE) scale that ranks your intensity level from 1 to 10, with 10 being an all-out, oh-my-goodness-I-can’t-take-anymore level of intensity. If you can barely catch your breath and you cannot talk at all, you’ve hit level 10.

The periods of rest during HIIT are just as important as the intervals. By taking the rest period between moves, your body is forced to acclimate between two different exertion states, which strengthens your heart.

A typical HIIT session is about 20-45 minutes of working and resting. If you are interested in finding a group class, view HIIT classes at the YMCA Healthy Living Center – INTEGRIS location for a list of times.

Try HIIT at home

Here’s a sample 10-minute HIIT workout you can do at home or in your neighborhood. If you feel strong after 10 minutes, run through the sequence again.

(To download the PDF, click here).

HIIT Infographic

Four-Minute HIIT

There is form of HIIT called Tabata that incorporates 20 seconds of effort and 10 seconds of rest, to be done for four minutes. Yes, you read that right - just FOUR MINUTES! And it actually gives you a pretty good workout!

Do these four moves twice for a full Tabata to skyrocket your workout. Do the exercises for 20 seconds, followed by 10 seconds of rest.

  1. Jumping jacks
  2. Burpees
  3. Ice skaters
  4. Jump squats

Is HIIT right for me?

As with any lifestyle change, it’s best to talk with your INTEGRIS physician to see if you are healthy enough for intense exercise. Be sure to check with your doctor if you experience dizzy spells or are taking medications that make you dizzy, if you have a chronic health condition like heart disease or asthma or if you are just starting out on an exercise regimen.

If you like high-intensity workouts like HIIT, boot camps may also pique your interest. Read our Boot Camp 101 guide to OKC. For more healthy lifestyle tips, continue to browse the On Your Health Blog.