HIIT Craze: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly of High Intensity Interval Training

The latest thing to hit the fitness world is HIIT, which stands for High Intensity Interval Training. Walk into any gym and you’ll find classes utilizing this form of anaerobic exercise. But there are positives and negatives to any kind of workout. We break it down so you can figure out if HIIT is right for you.

high intensity interval training infographic

In short, HIIT combines short bursts of activity with slightly longer stretches of inactivity (or minimal activity). The simplest example of this would be alternating running and walking. This technique is so efficient because it allows you to have “rest” periods, which keep your heart rate up high enough that you’re still burning fat, and you don’t completely lose your momentum by stopping. Additionally, every HIIT workout is different, so you’re constantly changing things up, which tricks your muscle memory and leads to better results.

Numerous studies show enormous benefits to HIIT: faster progress in weight loss, a strong improvement in athletic ability, and an overall healthier outcome. Participants love that they are able to do the workout wherever they choose: at the gym, at the park with friends, or even in the comfort of their own home. There’s no expensive equipment involved, and sometimes free CrossFit workouts can be found online. Best of all, anyone can participate in HIIT; routines are adjustable based upon your skill level and the amount of time you want to work out.

However, HIIT wasn’t really created for the inexperienced. Dr. Izumi Tabata created the program after watching an Olympic team, and her protocol specifies a 2:1 ratio of high intensity to low intensity. This has been adjusted to either 2:3 or 1:3 for the average or beginner trainee, but this means that the results won’t be as great as Tabata intended.

Additionally, there is always a risk for injury, and with minimal training required to become a teacher, improper instruction and care may very well increase that risk. Athletes who try HIIT should be advised that the kind of conditioning provided likely will not increase their ability for a particular sport.  And while it is touted as a low cost option, expenses can add up, especially when you’re purchasing P90x DVD sets or CrossFit club memberships.

If you feel like HIIT is a good option for you, you should consult your physician first. When you get started, figure out what you’re aiming for and how you’ll get there, and reevaluate as you go. Fitness gadgets like Fitbug Orb can help you monitor your progress, by tracking your activity, calories burned and your sleep. Don’t forget to always take it one step at time, and you’ll begin to achieve your fitness goals.