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Health: High Intensity Interval Training

We all have our reasons and motivations to exercise (lose fat, gain muscle, improve fitness, etc). Even if we do not follow through (yet), we all ‘want to get in shape’. The foremost reason people do not exercise is lack of time, followed closely by lack of place/equipment. Even for people who do work-out regularly, there are days where the shortage of time makes going through the whole routine almost impossible. However, you don’t need to: (1) spend hours (2) in the gym to make it worthwhile. This is where High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) comes in. HIIT is one of the most efficient and effective techniques for exercising, especially if you have a shortage of time and resources (in terms of equipment).


1. Post-Exercise Consumption

In fitness training, there is something called the excess post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC) effect, where the increased rate of oxygen intake following strenuous activity is measured. In anaerobic interval training, our bodies use energy reserves and even after the workout is finished, metabolism levels stay high, continually burning calories. Depending on the intensity of the training, this process can go on for hours. Since HIIT is (as the name implies) high-intensity, calories keep on burning as energy is replaced and muscles are repaired post-exercise.

2. Fat-Burn

Diets and steady-rate cardio usually result in loss of some muscle mass along with fat. Weight training and HIIT on the other hand preserve the muscle-mass and ensure that the energy needed for the workout comes mostly from fat stores. And as mentioned in the above point, this fat-burn continues long after the training.

3. Increased Metabolism

It has been reported that HIIT improves the human growth hormone (HGH) production by up to 450 percent post-workout. Remember, HGH is not only responsible for burning calories, but also slows down the aging process.

4. Do It Anywhere

You can use fancy or high-priced equipment OR you can use no equipment at all. Depending on your preferences, you can do it anywhere. All that matters is that you go for maximum effort and intensity in a short time period, followed by some recovery time, and repeat.

5. Metabolic Waste

In any exercise, our body produces hydrogen ions and lactic acid (that cause cramps etc). HIIT produces these at a rapid rate. The short recovery period in between is intended to remove these waste products and get the muscles ready for the next round. In essence, making the body tolerate and recover from the workout periods.

6. Not Boring

You can switch up your routine, so that it doesn't become the same-old same-old sitting on a bike or running on a treadmill, etc. There are numerous workouts out there that you can incorporate in your regimen.

7. Healthier Heart

A 2006 study in the Journal of Physiology stated that subjects could bicycle twice as long as they could before, after 8 weeks of doing HIIT workouts. The anaerobic exercises (that cause breathlessness and your feel like your heart is pumping at and explosive pace), reduce subcutaneous and abdominal body fat better than other types of exercise; resulting in a healthier heart and body.


1. Challenging

First and foremost, HIIT has to be challenging. You cannot do this while watching your favorite show on the monitor, or relaxing on a bike with the magazine in hand, or even chatting with your friends while doing it. The workout has to be so stressful that you are out of breath to even talk, and more importantly since it is in short bursts, you won’t have any time to chat (you will be exercising the whole time – yes, you may talk during the recovery).

2. Intensity vs. Rest

Imagine that you are on an intensity scale from 1 to 10, where 10 is the highest intensity your body can take. HIIT should be performed at an 8, for a period of 45 seconds or less (say when you are breathless). Rest or recovery period should be as long as your HIIT round, or “slightly longer” until breathing is quick, but under control; do not wait till your breathing turns to normal.

3. How Long

You can make your own routine, depending on what amount of time you can devote to HIIT. But minimally, you should have a minute or two of warm-up, followed by five to seven rounds of HIIT, followed by a minute or two of cool-down.

4. What to Do

A quick Google search can bring thousands of different exercises. Choose one that you can easily do, given your space and time constraints. Remember, you can shorten the duration and manage your own clock. Some example links I got from a quick search are below:

5. How Often

Not more than 3-4 times a week.


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