High intensity interval training, or HIIT exercise, , has soared in popularity in recent years. It’s a secret weapon whether your goal is to burn fat, gain muscle or improve your cardiovascular fitness. With true HIIT, you work to 80-95% of your maximum heart rate for a very short interval, then recover for a slightly longer interval. You can calculate your maximum heart rate by subtracting your age from 220. Your heart rate should be soaring, then it should be able to recover on your breaks. The beauty of HIIT is that if you’re doing it right, you shouldn’t be able to complete more than 30 minutes. So, it’s the perfect option for busy schedules because with less time, you’ll see more benefits. It gives you the cardiovascular benefits of jogging on the treadmill for over an hour. 

Here, we cover why HIIT exercise is so effective and how you can start a HIIT routine.

It’s a powerful fat-burning tool.

HIIT is proven to burn calories more efficiently, and also rev up calorie burn and metabolism for more than a full day after you complete a workout. It burns more fat than other forms of exercise. Also, it’s effective because your body consumes more oxygen after this type of exercise and that “exercise post oxygen consumption” can continue for up to 38 hours. Other types of exercise, like steady-state cardio, stop burning fat as soon as you’re done and don’t have the same metabolic effects as HIIT.

HIIT exercise is muscle friendly. 

Although cardio is great for overall health, too much of it can cause muscle loss over time. If you’ve worked hard for your muscle but want to work on burning fat, HIIT cardio can ensure your body holds onto it and doesn’t burn it as fuel. This is helpful because the more muscle you have, the more calories you burn at rest.

Your cardiovascular endurance will skyrocket.

Because your heart is working extremely hard then recovering quickly, HIIT exercise is great for your cardiovascular health and can help you get more fit in less time. The power output is large, making both your muscles and your endurance stronger. It gets you the endurance benefits of running, biking, swimming or climbing stairs, and in half the time.

Bonus: HIIT exercise is fun! 

The nature of HIIT is constantly keeping your body guessing. It’s not long or monotonous, so it’s hard to get bored this way. You can tailor it to your favorite way to workout, and it’s a great mood booster. 

How to:

  • Run or sprint at 80-90% of your max effort for anywhere from 20 seconds to a minute. You’ll have to play around with the timing to find what works best for you. 
  • Then, rest for an interval that’s at least equal to your effort interval, if not longer. You should feel pretty recovered and able to hold a light conversation during your recovery. This can be fast walking or slow jogging, depending on your fitness level. When you become more fit, you can increase the work periods, but make sure you don’t drop the rest periods too low. The whole point is to allow your heart rate to back off during the recovery.
  • Try this formula with any kind of cardio, whether it’s the stair stepper, elliptical or stationary bike. 
  • Look up HIIT routines on YouTube to follow along (try FitnessBlender or Chloe Ting’s channel), or on Pinterest to screenshot and save for later. Once you’re familiar with HIIT, switching it up keeps it fun and pushes your body even harder.