You might be able to get a killer workout in less time than it takes to brush your teeth, according to a study published in the American Journal of Physiology. The 2018 research found short bursts of ultra high-intensity exercise were just as effective for triggering beneficial changes in the cells that could reduce the risk of chronic disease.
As part of the small study, researchers separated participants into three groups: The sprint group performed 4 30-second cycling intervals at maximum effort; the high-intensity group completed 5 4-minute cycling sessions at 75% peak effort; and the moderate-intensity group engaged in 30 minutes of continuous cycling at 50% peak effort. The similarities in cell responses among all three groups led researchers to conclude, “… exercise may be prescribed according to individual preferences [and] the findings have important implications for improving our understanding of how exercise can be used to enhance metabolic health in the general population.”
HIIT HEALTH BENEFITS
In addition to saving time, high-intensity interval training or HIIT also offers some major health benefits. New research found engaging in 90-second intervals of high-intensity exercise three times per week helped lower blood pressure. HIIT has also been shown to improve aerobic capacity, help lower blood sugar, improve insulin resistance and aid in weight loss. In fact, research published in the Journal of Obesity found that engaging in HIIT three times per week helped participants lose more than 4 pounds of body fat in 12 weeks.
The benefits of short, intense bouts of exercise make Jennifer Cohen, personal trainer and author of “Badass Body Goals,” a huge fan of HIIT. She calls it, “an important part of a holistic fitness program” and advocates incorporating it into your workout routine — even when you have time for longer workouts.
Cohen cites the “after burn” as one of the major advantages of HIIT. A fast and furious workout keeps your metabolism elevated long after the sweat session ends, which helps burn additional calories. In fact, one study found that exercisers who participated in a high-intensity workout burned up to 200 more calories in the 14 hours after the workout ended than those who engaged in lower intensity exercise.
“The after-burn makes HIIT great for fat loss,” Cohen says.
A WORD OF CAUTION
Before you decide to squeeze all of your workouts into the commercial breaks during your favorite TV show, Cohen offers a warning. “I am a huge fan of HIIT, but if all of your workouts are high intensity, your body will burn out,” she says. “Focus on consistency, not intensity.”
Cohen recommends mixing up HIIT and conventional 30-minute cardio workouts. The combination, she believes, is easier to sustain long-term. When there is no time to hit the gym for a long sweat session, a short bout of intense exercise is a great option.
THE BOTTOM LINE
“HIIT is fast and efficient — and it’s much better than skipping a workout altogether because you don’t have the time,” she says.