The most popular form of workout term these days, arguably, is HIIT or high-intensity interval training. Anyone who is remotely interested in exercise or any kind of active lifestyle is familiar with it. It also happens to be the most flexible format that can be easily applied to any form of training for any exercise or activity. Swimming, cycling, running, strength training, resistance training, boot camp or bodyweight training, you name it, you can do it the HIIT way.
Simply put, HIIT is a format or pattern of training where you alternate between a short bout of exercise at a high intensity and a short bout of low-intensity exercise. In running, some of the most popular speed training workouts are Fartlek and Yasso loops, both of which are great examples of HIIT. In Fartlek, a minute-long fast run is alternated with a minute of jogging (entire duration 20-50 minutes). For Yasso loops, one runs for 800m at a fast pace, followed by 400m of slow-paced run for recovery. This combination is repeated four to six times, depending on your training goal. In strength and bodyweight training, the Tabata workout is nothing but HIIT, wherein you work for 20 seconds and rest for 10 seconds and perform eight sets of this combination.
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HIIT is an essential part of training for everyone, from professional athletes to those just beginning to adopt an active lifestyle. The pros do it because HIIT helps them improve their VO2 Max and endurance, and fitness levels. On the other hand, recreational athletes returning to HIIT training after a break love it and hate it at the same time. It may be difficult, but it’s also the quickest way to regain old fitness and performance levels.
Given the fact that HIIT is typically a short workout, it is also a favourite of professionals. Despite a busy schedule, it’s always possible to find 20 minutes for a HIIT session. Pallavi Barman, the business head of HRX, UpGrad's co-founder and MD Mayank Kumar and Oakley India’s brand business manager, Sahil Jandail, are among those who include HIIT in their fitness regimen. Bengaluru-based cybersecurity consultant Kshitij Sharma, 36, swears by HIIT because the workouts are short and can be performed at home. “Even a 30-minute HIIT workout is a good amount of exercise no matter what the fitness levels,” says Sharma.
The popularity of HIIT is justified, given the vast benefits, it can have for your health. A 2017 study published in Science Direct journal found that HIIT contributes a more favourable regulation of metabolic dysfunctions compared to medium intensity continuous training (MICT). Studies have also found that HIIT is more effective in helping reduce body fat, lose weight and gain more muscle. Sharma says that a 30-minute workout keeps him feeling great throughout the day. “In that short time, I probably sweat as much as I’d if I ran 15-20km, and I do that too. But running those distances takes much longer, and it is not possible to dedicate that much time every day. HIIT lets me burn a lot more calories in a short span of time,” says Sharma.
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HIIT has also been reported to be more effective in increasing aerobic capacity and reducing risks associated with blood pressure and other conditions. A 2016 study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine found that overweight people who stuck to doing HIIT workouts for at least 12 weeks experienced significant improvement in waist circumference, body fat percentage, VO2 max, resting heart rate, systolic blood pressure and blood pressure. Among the normal weight population, the long-term impact of HIIT was a significantly improved VO2 max, the researchers noted.
Shrenik Avlani is a writer and editor and the co-author of The Shivfit Way, a book on functional fitness