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High intensity interval training workouts

23 January 2019

Will High Intensity Interval Training Workouts be a 'HIIT' With You?
Remember to speak with your Healthcare Professional before undertaking vigorous exercise such as HIIT training

What do you do when you’re highly motivated to get healthy, but struggle to find the time? The solution, according to many, is high-intensity interval training, or ‘HIIT’. Studies show HIIT can help us improve our health in less time than many other forms of training1,2,3

In this article, we look at the benefits of HIIT to help you decide if it could be the right exercise regime for you.

What is HIIT?

HIIT is simple enough. It involves a rapid burst of extreme exertion followed by a longer recovery period of more gentle activity. You’ll carry out several of these rapid exertion/ rest periods during a HIIT workout, which may last from 10 to 30 minutes.

A HIIT workout could look like this:

  1. 5 minutes low-intensity warm up
  2. 30 seconds fast sprinting
  3. 120 seconds recovery
  4. Repeat points 2-3 six times.

That’s it: a potentially intense workout completed in 30 minutes. As well as a time-saver, HIIT is a highly adaptable workout. You can use the technique for any number of cardio activities, from cycling and rowing to dance workouts and boxercise – the possibilities are virtually limitless. This adaptability gives you the chance to apply a HIIT routine to something you love to do. And that’s great news because enjoying exercise is such a crucial factor when keeping a long-term exercise plan.

Providing you work hard during the high-intensity periods, many experts believe you can reap considerable benefits.

The benefits of HIIT

Many exercises involving cardio activity can help us reduce heart rate and blood pressure, burn calories and lose weight, and improve oxygen consumption and overall fitness.

According to many studies, the key difference with HIIT is that it can help you achieve these benefits in a shorter period of time than traditional, ‘continuous’ exercise.

In various studies, individuals using high-intensity interval training workouts have been shown to:

  • burn more calories over a 30-minute period than a non-HIIT group1
  • achieve the same oxygen consumption improvements (a measure of cardiorespiratory fitness) as a non-HIIT exercise group but in workouts that were half the time2
  • achieve similarly decreased blood pressure as a non-HIIT exercise group but by working out less often for shorter periods.3

HIIT and diabetes

The NHS Health Research Authority has said that HIIT (which it calls by its variant name HIT), ‘[…] has been shown to be effective in improving a range of metabolic risk factors, including fitness and insulin sensitivity, which are important for pre-diabetic and diabetic patients. This is important because HIT requires considerably less time commitment than traditional exercise guidelines.’4

The NHS comments don’t suggest HIIT is better for people with diabetes than other types of exercise – just more time-efficient. But one meta study, which looked at the results of over 50 studies, does suggest unique benefits5. Researcher Charlotte Jelleyman, an exercise physiologist and co-author of the study, believes her results may show that HIIT exercise results in lower blood glucose than continuous exercise or no exercise at all. She said, ‘We have demonstrated that HIIT conveys benefits to cardiometabolic health which in the cases of insulin resistance and aerobic fitness may be superior to the effect of traditional continuous training.’6 The researchers did add that more studies were necessary.

What's the right way to do HIIT?

If you’re thinking about embarking on a HIIT workout, there are a few things to remember.

Always warm up. You’re about to start a high-intensity workout and preparing yourself properly is essential. Perform a lower intensity version of the workout for at least five minutes. Also, gently stretch the muscle groups used in your exercise.

Keep it snappy. Avoid burnout and diminishing returns by keeping your workouts to 30 minutes maximum. You might find you need to do considerably less time than this to get the results you are looking for.

Don’t skip the recovery. You must ensure the recovery period is long enough for you to gather your energies and go hard once again. Make it long enough so you can do the next round at full intensity.

Include rest days. HIIT should only be performed two to three times per week, to allow for full recovery. If you want to exercise more, choose a continuous exercise. In general, HIIT should be a part but not all of your weekly exercise routine.

Is HIIT right for me?

If you suspect you might find HIIT overwhelming, then there are plenty of continuous training activities that can help you achieve wonderful results – it just might take a bit longer per session to achieve them.

On the other hand, if you’re the kind of person who loves a challenge and finds the relatively short exercise periods of HIIT convenient, it could be just the exercise for you.

Finally, do consult a health professional before beginning high-intensity interval training workouts. And if you haven’t exercised for some time it’s probably worth starting with some continuous training before ‘hitting the HIIT’. We’ll say it one final time – it’s hard!


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The views expressed in the Accu-Chek blog are not necessarily those of Roche Diabetes Care Limited or our publishers. The content is provided for general information only. It is not intended to amount to advice on which you should rely – you must obtain professional or specialist advice before taking, or refraining from, any action on the basis of the content. Although we make reasonable efforts to ensure that the content is up to date, we make no representations, warranties or guarantees, whether express or implied, that the content is accurate, complete or up-to-date.