Exercise, the dreaded word for busy people juggling a full schedule. We are here to show you how to exercise for a busy schedule, without getting up at 4am to go to the gym- because let’s face it, we could all use the extra sleep! We promise that you will be able to get yourself in shape and have a great cardio session in less than 15 minutes three times per week (that is less than an hour per week!).
High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)
High Intensity Interval Training aka HIIT, is the new cool kid on the block when it comes to exercise, especially for those who just don’t have the time to spend hours in the gym. We are going to be discussing how to substitute your hour long cardio sessions into 15 minutes only three times per week. So, what exactly is HIIT? High intensity interval training is when you are exercising and suddenly increase your speed to a sprint for a short burst of time, followed by a period of lower intensity.
HIIT can be done with almost any workout or exercise including running, swimming, stair climbing, rowing, cycling, jump roping, climbing stairs, the elliptical, and almost any other activity you enjoy or have access to. The key to HIIT training is not so much the speed of your “sprint” but the amount of effort or exertion it takes you to do it. For some people merely walking at a brisk pace may be extremely difficult, whereas for others it may be extremely easy. The beauty of HIIT is that you are going at your own pace and your body alone perceives what “high intensity” means for you. The chart below is called the “rate of perceived exertion” and this chart helps you determine what different intensities feel like on a scale from 1-10, with 1 being extremely easy and 10 feeling like you are about to pass out.
How To Do A HIIT Workout
Now that you know what a HIIT workout is all about, let’s look at how you would actually do one. In the chart below you will see the rough outline for a HIIT workout, no matter what exercise you are doing.
Before every workout you should always warm up. As seen in the template above, you should warm up for at least 3 minutes, but if you feel you need a longer warm up or have an extra few minutes feel free to take as long as you want or need. Your warm up will be done at an exertion level of 3-4, which means you should still be able to pretty easily have a conversation and you should be beginning to develop a little shimmer of sweat.
The Bulk of The Workout
Now after you are warmed up, you will be going into your first “speed” drill. You will want to increase your speed until you are exerting yourself at a 7-9 level, which means you should not be able to have a conversation apart from maybe a single word, and should be sweating hard. Continue like this for 1 minute. After the one minute is over you are going to go straight into the “recovery” phase. In the recovery phase you want to decrease your speed so that you reach an exertion level to a 5-6. During the recovery phase you should be able to have a small conversation, but not have it be very easy. After this recovery phase you are going to repeat both speed and recovery phases 2 times each.
After the last recovery phase you are going to end the workout with a cool down, which is very similar to the warm up. You want to bring your exertion level down to a 3-4, so again it should be easy to have a conversation. Make sure to cool down for at least 3 minutes, in order to decrease your heart rate. If you feel you need to cool down for a few more minutes, please feel free to do so.
Health Benefits to HIIT
If you needed more of a reason to give HIIT exercise a try, keep reading to find out how many health benefits can be attributed to HIIT:
- Improve your aerobic fitness, you will notice that when you are taking a bunch of stairs at work or running for a bus or a train or playing with your kids or your dog, you aren’t going to be as out of breath and you won’t get as exhausted as easily.
- Improve cardiovascular health by improving blood pressure as well as strengthening your heart.
- Improve insulin sensitivity, which is a really positive thing because it prevents type II diabetes (which is prevalent in overweight and sedentary people). Improving insulin sensitivity also helps your muscles when you are exercising because glucose (which your body needs for energy) is better utilized by your muscles when you are working out, which means you will not get tired as quickly and the exercise won’t seem as difficult.
- Increase your body’s VO2 max, which basically means increasing your bodies efficiency for using oxygen. The greater your VO2 max, the less out of breath you will feel when working out, and the exercise will feel less difficult.
- Lose body fat and maintain muscle!
The Myth of the “Fat Burning Zone” Debunked
You may be reading all this information on HIIT but are confused because you have always heard that the best way to shred fat while exercising is by being in the “fat burning zone” (if you have not heard of the fat burning zone consider yourself lucky because you won’t hold any wrong or preconceived notions). The mystical fat burning zone is nothing more than moderate intensity exercise for a medium/long duration of time, such as using the elliptical at a light resistance for 45 minutes. The reasoning behind the lure of the fat burning zone is in part true, your body does efficiently burn fat at a moderate intensity, however, because the activity is not particularly strenuous the amount of calories you are actually burning during you workout can pale in comparison to the number of calories burned in a HIIT workout. With a HIIT workout, even though you are not working out for a long amount of time you are working extremely hard and burning a ton of calories. At the end of the day, it does not matter if your body was predominantly burning fat, all that really matters is the amount of calories you burned, because the more calories you burn the more weight and fat mass you lose.
Now, if you still are not 100% convinced then think of it this way; your body almost exclusively burns fat when you are sitting down, sleeping, or lounging on the couch. But most would agree that when you are sitting and doing nothing you are barely burning any calories at all. Intuitively we all know that going for a run or cleaning the house or something physically difficult is always going to burn more calories. The same is going to be true with exercise, the harder you work, the better the result.
Good luck with all you HIIT exercises! Please feel free to leave any questions or comments below!
As always if you have any medical conditions consult your physician before starting a new exercise program.
Kravitz, L. (2014). High Intensity Interval Training. 1st ed. [ebook] American College of Sports Medicine. Available at: https://www.acsm.org/docs/brochures/high-intensity-interval-training.pdf [Accessed 23 Feb. 2016].
Schoenfield, B. and Dawes, J. (2009). High-Intensity Interval Training: Applications for General Fitness Training. Strength and Conditioning Journal, [online] 31(6). Available at: https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Jay_Dawes/publication/232214539_High-Intensity_Interval_Training_Applications_for_General_Fitness_Training/links/0f3175322d2bbaeb7e000000.pdf [Accessed 1 Mar. 2016].