Fitness is an ever-changing industry and trends seem to come and go. As a relatively new concept in the fitness world, high-intensity interval training (HIIT), this unique approach to cardio seems to be here to stay. More than just a fad, HIIT has become a favorite among fitness enthusiasts thanks to its many benefits.
From numerous assisted physical improvements to an improved mental state, we’ll take a look at the best ways you can use high-intensity interval training to heal—and even manage chronic illness and pain.
HIIT: The Basics
As stated above, the mental and physical benefits of HIIT are plentiful, which makes it a popular form of exercise. The basic premise of HIIT is that you quickly raise your heart rate with high-intensity exercise followed by a low-intensity activity that lowers your heart rate.
You can do HIIT-style workouts for less than 30 minutes up to three times a week. HIIT challenges traditional fitness modalities that insist you need to workout for longer periods every day. The convenient time frame of the workouts and accelerated results are two of the biggest factors that have made HIIT so popular.
How HIIT Can Improve Your Overall Health
One of the most notable health outcomes associated with HIIT is improved heart health. According to the CDC, heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States and fitness has been linked to better health outcomes in heart disease patients. But not just any type of exercise delivers significant results for those diagnosed with heart disease.
Several studies have revealed that people with heart disease who engaged in HIIT showed nearly double the level of cardiorespiratory fitness compared to those who engaged in steady-state cardio. Many cardiac rehabilitation units have even begun to integrate HIIT into their programs due to its efficacy in improving heart health and accelerating recovery.
Another notable benefit of HIIT is reduced joint pain, particularly for people diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. A randomized study published in Diabetes Research and Clinical Practice indicated that not only does HIIT stabilize glycemic levels and improve cardiorespiratory fitness for those with type 2 diabetes, but the more intense exercise also provides pain-relieving effects. Additionally, these same studies found that participants achieved these results in less than half the time compared to moderate-intensity exercise.
HIIT has also shown promising results for those dealing with fibromyalgia, a common rheumatic condition that is typically characterized by musculoskeletal pain, fatigue, sleep disorders, and cognitive issues that can decrease a person’s overall quality of life. Research conducted by the European League Against Rheumatism revealed that moderate to high aerobic and strength exercises can help effectively manage the pain associated with fibromyalgia and increase functional mobility.
Other Benefits of HIIT
Improved cardiovascular function, better control of type 2 diabetes, and reduced pain are certainly impressive advantages associated with high-intensity interval training but there are even more benefits.
The visible benefits of HIIT are numerous and this type of exercise is one of the most effective for reversing obesity. One study indicated that overweight and obese men who exercised three times a week HIIT style had a significant reduction in body fat in just two weeks, compared to subjects who performed moderate-intensity exercise. Additionally, the study found that HIIT had a positive impact on appetite regulation.
One reason HIIT is so effective for weight loss is that the faster results help people stick to a HIIT training program longer. Consistency is one of the main factors in an effective fitness regime and the shorter HIIT sessions combined with the recommendation of doing HIIT no more than 3 times per week makes it easier to stay consistent.
HIIT workouts are quick and explosive and can even help you power through during a workout that is contrary to traditional endurance-based workouts. HIIT workouts also work well for any fitness level and can encourage reluctant exercisers to try something new.
Is HIIT Right for You?
High-intensity interval training undoubtedly has some significant benefits, but as with any other type of exercise, it is important to do your research before you get started. If you have an underlying chronic condition or a recent injury, make sure to check with your doctor or physical therapist before embarking on a HIIT program.
You will also have a handle on your nutrition to achieve the best results and successfully manage any conditions you might be dealing with. Consider working with a nutritionist who can help tailor your diet to maximize the benefits of your HIIT workouts.
Despite all the benefits associated with HIIT, there are some things to be mindful of when engaging in this type of exercise. As stated earlier, it is recommended to do HIIT workouts for no more than 30 minutes at a time, up to three times per week. Avoid the temptation to do HIIT more often or for longer periods, as this can negatively impact your immunity and also increase your risk of overuse injuries.