What is HIIT?
HIIT stands for high-intensity interval training. Workouts of this kind involve short bursts of intense exercise. HIIT can be performed in any context — running, cycling, aerobics, and even strength training. It requires maximum effort from participants because of the short amount of time involved.
The attraction behind HIIT is that it provides the same benefits as other kinds of exercise but within a drastically reduced time frame.
Research has shown that HIIT workouts are useful for those who are time-crunched or homebound since no gym equipment is necessary. There’s also no associated cost with basic HIIT workouts, and there’s no need to travel outside the home to reap the benefits. HIIT workouts are also customizable and can be adjusted according to skill level and ability.
Concerning health markers, studies have shown that performing short bursts of high-intensity physical activity at least three times a week has positive effects for obese individuals, including reduced risk of heart disease, improved body composition, and the ability to regulate glucose levels.
Because HIIT is a simple and effective exercise method, participants are more likely to stick to a HIIT regimen compared to other types of physical activity. HIIT is a popular entry-level activity for the sedentary because it’s easy to do and requires less time.
Unfortunately, despite the many benefits and advantages of HIIT, there are also a host of negatives that come along with this type of workout.
First and most apparent is that HIIT requires high levels of effort. If you intend to work out for a shorter period of time, you need to give the workout all your attention and focus.
Giving maximum effort, even for 15 minutes, can be extremely draining and challenging for those not used to high-intensity exercise. For many, an all-out effort of the sort is wildly unpleasant.
For those who find HIIT an unpleasant activity, the chances of repeating the behavior are slim. After all, exercising is a lot easier if you’re doing something that you enjoy.
Interval training of this sort has also been shown to correlate with higher injury rates. When you’re going at a full effort for a short time, there is less emphasis on form, which can lead to poor posture and improperly executed movements.
High impact workouts also put a strain on the joints — especially the knees. Those with joint problems or injuries should not perform HIIT workouts unless given the OK by a medical professional.
Not all HIIT workouts are made equal. While there surely exist beginner-oriented classes and online videos, many high-intensity activities include complicated exercises such as compound movements that require a high level of skill and are not suitable for those new to working out.
Tips for preventing injury
Though the potential for injury is high when it comes to HIIT, the answer is not to discourage participants from continuing with this productive activity. People should instead take precautions when starting a new fitness regimen. Here are a few tips to avoid injury while performing HIIT workouts:
• TAKE A CLASS. Get instruction from a professional before taking your workouts home. Learn proper form and technique before performing workouts without supervision.
• GO SLOW. Start with beginner HIIT workouts before ramping up to more difficult sessions. Adjust movements as necessary.
• PAY ATTENTION TO FORM. Instead of blasting through movements as quickly as you possibly can during a workout, slow down and focus on your form — especially if you’re new to interval training.
• IF SOMETHING HURTS, STOP. Don’t keep doing those squat jumps if you feel an odd twinge in your knee. Don’t power through bicep curls if you feel a sharp pain in your shoulder. Acute pain is usually a sign that something isn’t right and may mean that your form is off. Learn to tell the difference between discomfort and pain.
• TAKE REST DAYS. If you’re starting out, don’t attempt to perform a HIIT workout each day of the week. Give your body time to rest between sessions.
• WEAR APPROPRIATE CLOTHING. Wear supportive, quality shoes that provide plenty of grip. Wear comfortable clothing and avoid wearing anything that may potentially drag or get caught on equipment.
• KNOW YOUR LIMITS. Listen to your body and know when it’s time to stop. If you feel chest pain or experience shortness of breath, end the workout and seek medical attention.
Written by: Steph Coelho