Do you want to improve your fitness level quickly in a short amount of time? It might sound too good to be true, but it is possible. If you are looking to make dramatic changes in strength, stamina, and overall fitness level with short periods of exercise, high intensity interval training (HIIT) is the way to go!

A HIIT 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.

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 the exercise. This means you are at 90% capacity of oxygen uptake (in comparison, exercise such as jogging, swimming, or cycling top out at about 50-70% VO2max), resting only for a brief period between intense exercise. This is a hard cycle to sustain, but volunteers in a 2009 study found that repeating a 3-minute warm-up/60-second intense cycling/75-second rest through 8-12 cycles three times a week gave them similar health benefits as volunteers who did steady state training five times a week.

Sounds intense, but that doesn’t mean that it has to be boring, and it isn’t necessarily always a short session of training. Zumba is a dance-inspired type of fitness class that utilizes the principles of HIIT.  Instructors lead the class in a series of moves that range from slow to fast, and classes last for about an hour.

Another way to get an intense workout in very little time is by utilizing a free app for all smart phones called the 7-Minute Workout. This workout features 12 high-intensity bodyweight exercises that are performed for 30 seconds each with a ten-second period of rest in between. You can choose a regular workout or two others, or make up your own.

Whether you dance your way through or go at it with traditional exercises, high intensity interval training is an excellent way to increase your level of fitness in a short amount of time.

Have you tried high intensity interval training? What were the results?

Image by Elvert Barnes via Flickr


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