Skip to main content

HIIT marks the spot

Less time + more effort = results

In the world of fitness, HIIT is all the hype. Short for high-intensity interval training, HIIT workouts require more effort through quick, intense bursts of exercise. This is followed by short, sometimes active, recovery periods.

Why do it?

Because there are big health benefits. According to the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), HIIT training has been shown to improve overall fitness levels, as well as:

  • Blood pressure
  • Cardiovascular health
  • Insulin sensitivity
  • Cholesterol levels

Plus, you’ll build lean muscle while burning fat.

“Basically, HIIT is a type of intense interval training. This means you go all out, and give it all you can, in brief bursts,” says Gina Ryan, program manager at Wellmark’s Well for Life Center. “It’s really simple to incorporate HIIT principles into any activity: walking, elliptical, burpees, bicep curls, lunges, squats and more.”

Here's how HIIT works:

  • The fast-paced work periods range from 5 seconds to 8 minutes long, and are performed at 80–90 percent of a person’s estimated maximum heart rate. This is the maximum number of times your heart will beat in a minute without overexerting yourself. “In other words, it’s about as fast as you can do it,” says Ryan.
  • The recovery periods may last equally as long as the work periods, and are performed at 40–50 percent of a person’s estimated maximum heart rate.
  • The workout continues with the alternating work and recovery periods.

    “HIIT workouts are challenging, yes,” says Ryan. “You’ll be winded. But, the good news is that you’re done in 20–30 minutes. One way to look at it is that you’re packing a more effective workout into a shorter amount of time. It’s a worthwhile tradeoff.”

5 reasons to try HIIT for your next workout

  1. Metabolism boost

    With interval training, you’ll burn fat, even after you’ve left the gym.

  2. Shorter workouts

    “The number-one reason people don’t exercise is because they don’t have time,” says Ryan. “With HIIT, you can get an effective workout in 30 minutes or less. This leaves plenty of time to clean up and be on your way."

  3. No equipment needed

    You can get an effective HIIT workout using your own body weight.

  4. Get out of a rut

    There’s nothing like fast-paced intervals to keep workout boredom at bay.

  5. Modify for any fitness level

    Any HITT workout can be adapted for your fitness level. “If you’re just starting a workout routine or you’ve been slowed down by an injury, it’s important to modify and set a reasonable pace,” says Ryan, “Always listen to your body and choose good form over speed. I recommend getting started with the help of a professional trainer, to make sure you’re getting your form right.”

More HIIT tips:

  • Start with a 5–10-minute warmup.
  • Do a HIIT workout two or three times per week. Alternate with moderate exercise. For example, throw in a 45-minute walk.
  • Use pre-programmed workouts. “Most machines have HIIT-type workouts built in to the programming,” says Ryan.
  • Enroll in a HIIT class or a boot camp.
  • Try online HIIT workouts External Site.

Ready to give HIIT a try? Get started with these four workouts