Recently I was listening to a podcast from Tim Ferris where he interviewed scientist Martin Gibalia, inventor of the 1-minute workout. While the workout, involving three 20-second sprints, takes 10 minutes to complete, I was intrigued by the idea of a more efficient workout. Most people don’t have the time (or desire) to work out for long periods of time, but everyone knows they’re supposed to do it.
Enter the field of HIIT. High intensity interval training is just like is sounds- short bursts of intense workouts, separated by periods of rest. And let me tell you, it works. At home I do P90-X3 and at the gym I attend boot-camp classes which often include Tabata-style workouts, named for Japanese scientist Dr. Izumi Tabata. These workouts are tough, but current research shows that short bursts of intense work, 30 minutes per week, can yield the same benefits as working out for 150 minutes per week.
How Does HIIT Work?
The intensity of interval training puts your body into an oxygen-deprived (or anaerobic) state. This stress on the body causes it to improve its oxygen carrying capacity- by as much as 28% in one study. Contrast that with steady-state traditional cardio workouts which improve aerobic capacity, but have little to no effect on anaerobic states.
HIIT vs Traditional Cardio
HIIT workouts can also be more complex (and advanced) than traditional cardio. With interval training you exercise as hard as possible. You’ll use 100% of your effort for a short burst and a set time- 45 seconds to 2 minutes- and then rest for a 3-minute period. This cycle is usually repeated at least four times.
Traditional cardio, on the other hand, requires oxygen for continuous movement so that the activity can be sustained over time- think running, swimming or Stairmaster. It can burn fat and help you lose weight, but it may also be time-consuming and repetitive.
Traditional Cardio Benefits
Some people find running or walking enjoyable because it allows them to de-stress without pushing too hard. While others train seriously for races. Since cardio can be done at a moderate pace, people can talk while doing it. Muscle soreness is also minimized in traditional cardio because it taps into the aerobic system, supplying the body with more nutrients and oxygen delivered straight to the muscle. It may also help burn fat* by creating a caloric deficit and build endurance, improving your overall fitness.
*Traditional cardio, which is longer in duration cardio entails exercising between 30 and 45 minutes.]
- Increased metabolism- High intensity interval training can increase your metabolism and reduce your BMI by increase muscle, and reduce fat. That’s because interval-training leads to Excess Post-Exercise Oxygen Consumption (EPOC) which fires up your metabolism for up to 48-hour after training. This means it may be possible to burn fat even when skipping the gym the next day!
- Convenience- HIIT lets you save time* by doing less and gaining more (results!) and it can be done anywhere (hotel room, bedroom or in a basement). Interval training can also be done in 30 minutes or less.
- No machines required, not even weights.
- You’ll build & sustain muscle with increased metabolism and fat loss.
*HIIT can be a set time of 45 seconds per exercise and a short resting period of 15 seconds between each, making you fit and building your endurance and strength in less the time.
Two HIIT Workouts to Try
[Each for 45 seconds each, 15 second rest. 3 rounds]
- Jumping Jacks
- Side lunges
- Triceps dips
- Sit ups
- One-minute jogging alternate with 30-second sprints (for 12-15 minutes)
The Bottom Line
Both traditional cardio and high intensity interval training help you lose weight, improve cardiovascular fitness, and increase muscle endurance. But when it comes to efficiency, fun, and difficulty, HIIT has the edge. High intensity interval exercises burn fat better, take less time, and are perfect workouts for those how enjoy variety and pushing themselves physically.
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