Do you want to increase your level of fitness and condition very quickly, spending just a short period of time working out every other day? Sounds too good to be true, but there is a type of exercise that is a great way to jump start weight loss and increase stamina and fitness rapidly. High-intensity interval training (HIIT) works major muscle groups in short bursts with maximum effort to boost metabolism, burn fat, and increase fitness level quickly.

A high-intensity interval training session consists of a warm-up period, an intense period of exercise, and a cool-down period.

Because of the intense nature of the training, warm-up and cool-down periods are essential. There are several different ways to complete a HIIT session. The most common type is running. After a warm-up, a runner would run flat-out at maximum effort for a prescribed distance, then rest for 30 seconds, then repeat. The distance can vary, but the rest in between is generally about 30 seconds, and the effort should be at the highest level possible.

Another type of HIIT that is gaining followers is a routine that can be downloaded onto a smartphone or computer. The 7-Minute Workout app takes just seven minutes to complete, but in that time, all major muscle groups are exercised at maximum intensity. Using your own bodyweight as resistance, you will do each of the following exercises for 30 seconds, with ten seconds of rest in between: jumping jacks, wall sits, push-ups, ab crunches, step-ups, squats, tricep dips, planks, high knees running in place, lunges, push ups with rotation, and side planks.

The key here is to push yourself to perform at maximum level during the workout portion. You should achieve at least 90% VO2max when running or performing an exercise. This means you are at 90% capacity of oxygen uptake (in comparison, exercise such as jogging, swimming, or cycling tops out at about 50-70% VO2max), resting only for a brief period between intense bursts of exercise. This is a hard cycle to sustain, but volunteers in a 2009 study found that repeating a three minute warm-up/60-second intense cycling/75-second rest through eight to 12 cycles three times a week gave them similar health benefits as volunteers who did steady state training five times a week.

The time period for working out is much shorter, but more intense. 

For this reason, it is imperative that you talk with your doctor prior to starting this type of work out. While there are benefits for cardiovascular health and anaerobic fitness, there are also risks associated with intense exercise. Talk to your doctor first.

In addition, this training should not be done on consecutive days. Take a day between HIIT sessions to rest and recover, or add in an easy type of exercise to balance out the intensity. Go for a walk, take a gentle or yin yoga class, or bike an easy trail. There should be balance to your work out that includes exercise that is relaxing and enjoyable.

Do you think that high-intensity interval training is for you? Why or why not?

Image by Kenny Holston via Flickr


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