As we all know–exercise is good for us, and we’ve all heard that we should be getting about 30-60 minutes per day most days of the week. But in today’s fast-paced world where the demands of maintaining an acceptable balance of work and play seem to endlessly steal us from our depot of availability, finding the time to meet these recommendations can be quite a challenge. The benefits of HIIT can help your workout routine.

So for those who’ve committed to incorporate exercise into your lives on the regular, you need to make sure that time is well spent. What better time than now to talk about what exercises help you get fit and stay interested in your workouts. Let’s be honest: how many of us want to exercise, but often find ourselves just plain bored with how we train, leading to inconsistency and general lack of interest to continue.

With this, we re-introduce a topic that has been talked about before, and I am bringing up again as it pertains to our F5 family and Fighter Fit classes– otherwise known as ** HIIT** (high-intensity interval training).

This type of training is similar to the Fartlek style favored by old-school track athletes, and it’s been around for years. Fartlek, which means “speed play” in Swedish, is a training method that blends continuous training with intervals. The variable intensity and ongoing nature of the exercise places stress on both the aerobic (with oxygen) and Anaerobic (without oxygen) systems. It differs from traditional interval training in that it is unstructured; intensity and speed vary, as the athlete/individual wishes.  In English? It works.

This training is associated with running and sprinting but can include almost any kind of exercise along with it. It has enjoyed a recent resurgence with this “everything-old-is-new-again” movement so prevalent in today’s fitness industry. It is a simple concept, however, and since we know a lot more about how to program it correctly and more efficiently, regarding volume, intensity, and duration, …not to mention fun. It’s a perfect solution for anyone looking to drop fat, improve cardiovascular health, and enhance Metabolic health (the chemical processes that occur within a living organism to maintain life). Pretty neat, huh?

Some of us, though, want a little science knowledge behind what we choose to do (as we should) for our exercise. Aside from the visible and tangible results we get from working on our bodies, what’s going on INSIDE our bodies concerning what we do for it?

As mentioned, HIIT has been shown to reduce body fat — in particular abdominal fat. In comparison with continuous moderate exercise, HIIT increases energy expenditure and fat burning to a greater extent in the minutes and hours AFTER a workout. This “afterburn” is formally known as excess post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC) and reflects the body’s further use of energy to replenish depleted fuel stores, repair cells, and restore hormonal and other body systems to their pre-exercise state.

The effects of EPOC are said to be longer and more prominent after HIIT and weight training as opposed to cardio. One study even showed that the EPOC effect would stay in action in some cases for up to 38 hours.  If you do a cardio session at a very low intensity for 45 minutes, you will get a bit of EPOC effect for something like a couple of hours — hardly comparable.

Think about it this way: with regular cardio sessions, you break down fats and use them as energy during and after a workout, and then you have a marginally raised metabolism for a couple of hours where you use all sources for energy and recovery. Then you are back to normal. On the other hand, after a weight training or HIIT session, you use energy primarily from carbohydrates. Then your metabolism is elevated for a long time, therefore burning a lot of calories from all sources. So overall, you use a lot more energy in the latter option. One thing to note in the cardio option is that you burn the fat and a bit of carbohydrate, but there are a lot of carbs leftover, and if they are not used, they will be converted to fat, therefore showing you fewer results.

If you want to get benefits from the EPOC effect, you need to concentrate on HIIT and weight training. Opt for cardio on off days or low-intensity days as you should not be doing HIIT or weight training every day.

Lastly, who benefits most from HIIT training, you may wonder..?  Well, mostly, everyone can benefit from it. Studies have shown that it is safe and effective for those with health conditions such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease, and it offers numerous advantages for healthy people merely looking to save time or switch up their workouts. Even professional endurance athletes are using HIIT to improve performance by incorporating it alongside traditional endurance exercise in a comprehensive training program.

In summary? HIIT is a fun way to break up the monotony of conventional workouts, and according to researchers, may even be easier to stick to than traditional activities.

So, now that you have some knowledge about this type of exercise and its many benefits pick up your phone and book a Fighter Fit class to start seeing the results of HIIT– both INSIDE and OUT.

-Jessica Kilts, NASM CPT, SFG 1