Not Just For Athletes: HIIT Exercise and Why You Should Be Doing It

The scientific consensus for the effectiveness of High Intensity Interval Training over conventional forms of exercise is growing.  Incorrectly considered a fad by many, both scientists and HIIT adherents are lauding its benefits. HIIT is an approach to fitness that is built around alternating between bursts of high intensity activity (measured as approx. 85 percent of your max heart rate) and slightly longer stints of moderate intensity (measured as approx. 60 percent of your max heart rate) for a relatively short period of time (10 to 20 minutes).

The benefits of HIIT are manifold, but they derive from the fact that HIIT fitness recruits all three muscle fiber types: slow twitch, fast twitch and super-fast twitch. As one might infer, the different types of fibers are used for different types of activities. Our obsession with slow endurance cardio only stimulates the slow twitch muscles. The other 66 percent of your muscle tissues (including your heart muscle) don’t get exercised. Rather than try to explain this further, a visual representation works better. Notice below the difference in physicality of the marathon runner versus the sprinter. Its becomes immediately and abundantly obvious which human looks healthier and better developed.

Sprinter vs Marathoner

Now, Hight Intensity Interval Training sounds hardcore and because of that it can be off putting to those who aren’t comfortable with intensity, think they aren’t “fit” enough for it or have health concerns. This post is largely about dispelling that perception. Whats great about HIIT is that the intensity level is 100 percent relative to your current health and fitness level. For an olympic sprinter, HIIT is running at crazy speeds that would be impossible for grandma. But for grandma, HIIT would be getting on a stationary bike and cycling at her personal best. What’s awesome is that they both are getting the incredible benefits of HIIT! I personally witnessed this on a cruiseship two years ago. I was doing a HIIT routine called Peak 8 on a recumbent cycle. To my right was a 70+ year old woman and I noticed, to my astonishment, that she was doing the same Peak 8 sequence I was doing. I turned to her and said “are you doing Peak 8?” and she said “yup, been doing it for over a year.” She went on to tell me that she loved it because she felt stronger, had more stamina throughout the day and it didn’t wear on her joints.

If my chance encounter isn’t testament enough, this article from the New York Times skillfully presents an overview of HIIT benefits among old, sick and at risk populations. The benefits  range from being “remarkably effective at lowering glucose levels in people with diabetes” to being “more effective at increasing patients’ peak oxygen uptake, blood vessel flexibility and pumping ability of the heart,” for those with “coronary artery disease and heart failure.” The bottom line: HIIT works!

To get started, be brave and be smart. First, consult your physician to get cleared for HIIT, especially if you have health issues.  Second, consider finding a local functional fitness or HIIT trainer to learn the basics, how to move properly and determine what your optimal heart training zones are. Three, get started – HIIT workouts are remarkably simple and rarely require a gym (unless you want them too). My favorite approach for beginners is the Peak 8 approach. If Peak 8 doesn’t float your boat, invent something with a trainer or search the web for a HIIT routine that seems right for you.

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45 comments

W. C
W. C2 months ago

Thank you.

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William C
William C2 months ago

Thanks.

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Siyus Copetallus
Siyus C1 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

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Carole R.
Carole R2 years ago

Thanks for posting.

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Quanta Kiran
Quanta Kiran2 years ago

noted

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Nikki Davey
Nikki Davey2 years ago

Tyfs

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Adrienne L.
Adrienne L2 years ago

Thanks for sharing.

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Julia Cabrera-Woscek

Awesome!

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Fi T.
Past Member 2 years ago

For general fitness

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ERIKA SOMLAI
ERIKA S2 years ago

walking and run-very good

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