HIIT Training – The Health Benefits & Science Behind It

High intensity interval training (HIIT) was recently predicted to be the top fitness trend for 2018. In a survey of over 4000 fitness professionals, it beat highly popular themes like wearable technology and yoga to the top spot. We’ve been big fans of it for a long time and have an entire group fitness program (CBXT) that’s been developed around the concept. But why is it so effective? Let’s look at the scientific research to understand exactly how it’s helping our bodies…

What Exactly Is HIIT?

HIIT consists of short bursts of intense activity followed by a short period of rest or active recovery. This might mean rowing sprints followed by stretching, or burpees and mountain climbers interspersed with a balancing exercise. The goal is to raise the heart rate to the ‘red zone’ which you can measure with chest straps and see on our workout screens. Because it’s an intense workout, you don’t need to do it for as long as more traditional exercises (such as running on a treadmill).

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There’s considerable evidence that supports the role of HIIT in a fitness regime. Numerous studies have demonstrated that it’s an effective way to improve both cardiovascular fitness and muscular endurance. Being fit in terms of cardio capacity and strength has been linked to improvements in overall health, which is why the CDC recommends doing both on a weekly basis.

A Time-Efficient Workout Option

Scientific studies have consistently found that HIIT is not only a highly effective workout method, but a time-efficient one too. It can lead to numerous metabolic adaptations that are usually associated with traditional (and time-consuming) endurance training.

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Although HIIT is currently a top-trending approach to fitness, research was demonstrating its benefits over a decade ago. A joint study by universities in Canada and Australia found that even just six HIIT sessions over two weeks improved muscle capacity and endurance performance. It found that just 15 minutes of high-intensity activity was enough to produce these results, making it an incredibly time-efficient workout option. If you’re busy and can’t spare 90 minutes for a gym session, then HIIT is the ideal alternative.

HIIT & Weight-Loss

HIIT isn’t just great for improving overall fitness – it’s an awesome training method for weight-loss too. In a scientific study that compared HIIT with steady-state exercise, the former showed significantly better results. By doing HIIT three times per week for 15 weeks, participants saw significant reductions in total body fat, subcutaneous leg and trunk fat, and insulin resistance too. Although the steady-state group did improve their fitness, they didn’t significantly reduce their overall weight or body fat.

Cardiovascular Disease Rehabilitation

Studies have also shown that HIIT may be beneficial for people with cardiovascular disease. It might seem counter-intuitive to raise the heart rate if you’re suffering from a circulatory problem, but research has shown that it can in fact be beneficial.

Many studies have suggested that low volume HIIT can be an alternative to the current exercise prescriptions for cardiac rehabilitation (which are more time-intensive). It’s been shown to elicit similar improvements in fitness and artery dilation as endurance training. Of course this is something that requires sign off from a qualified medical doctor prior to commencement, but it demonstrates the universal health benefits for different types of people.

HIIT & Type 2 Diabetes

HIIT has also been investigated as a potential exercise prescription for people with type 2 diabetes. In a short study into this topic, participants did just 30 minutes of HIIT per week. This lowered their average blood glucose concentration and increased muscle capacity, indicating that this type of training may be a time-efficient strategy for treating type 2 diabetes.

Although the study only lasted two weeks, it suggests that HIIT could provide an effective treatment that people actually have time to fit in with other work and life commitments. Almost 30 million people have type 2 diabetes in the USA, so it could prove to be an exciting avenue in the future.

Try HIIT For Yourself

Our CompleteBody XT sessions actually combine several of the most popular fitness trends for this year; HIIT, group training, body weight exercises, strength and functional all featured in the top 10.

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The program consists of six stations with two exercises per station. This means there’s plenty of variety and every muscle group is targeted. We perform an exercise twice for 45 seconds each, and have a 15 second rest in between. Once both exercises are completed you will transition to the next station, where you’ll do an active rest activity before starting the next exercises. The huge variety of exercises we include means no two sessions are ever the same; most revolve around the Queenax Bridge and include medicine balls, kettle bells, agility ladders, and rowing machines. Try it for yourself  here.

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