High intensity interval training is becoming a popular form of exercise. Not only does it help reduce body fat, decrease body fat enzymes, burn more calories, increase muscle tone and muscle size, improve glucose metabolism and improve cardiovascular health, but it can be done in as little as 4 minutes a day! Everyone can free up 4 minutes of time in their day to improve their health! So what is HIIT exactly and are there any studies to back up all of these amazing “side effects” to this type of exercise? Let’s discuss.

First off, this is NOT your typical cardio workout. You will not be spending 30-60 minutes on a treadmill, losing muscle mass and not doing much for your cardiovascular health. Conventional cardio performed for long periods of time has been found to decrease muscle tissue, decrease testosterone levels and decreases the ability of muscles to absorb glucose after training. Instead, high intensity interval training uses intervals of high-intensity exercises (like sprinting or pedaling as fast as you can on a bike) followed by an interval of a low-intensity exercise like walking, pedaling slow, or simply resting. An example of this type of workout would be pedaling as fast as you can for 20 seconds on a stationary bike, followed by 10 seconds of very slow pedaling. This cycle is completed 8 times for a total of 4 minutes. This scheme can be used for any exercise. If you have a little more time on your hands, you can alter the routine to 30 seconds of high intensity exercise and 60 seconds of rest or low intensity and repeat 10 times.

There are almost an unlimited amount of sources for HIIT workouts on the internet or you can make one up yourself once you understand the principles. You can create a workout program with weights, resistance bands, body weight or a combination of all different types of exercises. Crossfit is also another great example of HIIT. Now, for those who are interested in some scientific proof, I’ll list and briefly discuss some of the research!

  1. According to a study done in 2012 by Gremeaux et al., high intensity interval training improves body composition, cardiometabolic risk and exercise tolerance in obese subjects. Total fat mass and trunk fat mass, lipid profile and triglyceride levels were significantly improved after the program completion. Metabolic syndrome was also reduced by 32.5%.
  2. A study done by Trapp et al., in 2008 demonstrated similar effects on young women (between the ages of 18-22) after they underwent a HIIT program. When compared with the women in the study that performed steady state (i.e. a typical treadmill workout), the women who went through HIIT training showed significant fat loss in the legs, reductions in total body mass and fat mass. This was accomplished with HALF of the exercise time commitment when compared to steady state training.
  3. Heydari et al., found similar results in body composition in their study from 2012. Interestingly, they also found that VO2max increased by 15% following an HIIT program. VO2max is defined as the maximum capacity of an individual’s body to transport and use oxygen during exercise. This is a good reflection of physical fitness in general.
  4. Not only is HIIT the best and most efficient way to get a great cardio (aerobic) workout, but according to a study done on competitive cyclists using HIIT, it also increases testosterone. Testosterone is critical to building muscle mass and strength.

There are many more studies touting the benefits of HIIT, so hop off that treadmill and try one of these workouts for 10 minutes. You can do this anywhere, you don’t need any specific equipment. You can use a jump rope, weights, strength bands or even just body weight. Give it a shot at Cohle Performance Chiropractic in Harrisburg, PA;  you’ll be amazed at the results!