A healthy living blog from Marshfield Clinic Health System

Are you ready for a HIIT workout?

woman exercising in gym

Listed among this year’s top fitness trends, HIIT workouts have been praised as an effective way to burn calories quickly.

Sounds perfect, right?

Before you HIIT the gym, find out what you’re in for with this heart-pumping workout style.

What’s HIIT?

HIIT is an acronym for high-intensity interval training.

It’s a type of exercise that alternates intense workout periods performed at 80 percent or more of a person’s estimated maximum heart rate and recovery periods performed at 40 to 50 percent of the maximum heart rate.

The intense periods can last from 5 seconds to 8 minutes. The recovery periods usually last as long, said Marshfield Clinic athletic trainer Ryan Miller.

A complete HIIT workout lasts 20 to 60 minutes.

Why are HIIT workouts so popular?

“The number one reported reason for not exercising is not having enough time,” Miller said.

HIIT workout printableHigh-intensity bursts of exercise mean you can get cardio and strength benefits in a short amount of time.

The benefits continue after you stop exercising, because your body uses energy to recover from the workout.

That’s good news for busy people.

Before you HIIT it…

Right about now, you’re probably pretty excited to try HIIT. All the benefits of a longer workout in less time? Sign me up!

Before you do, make sure you’re up for high-intensity exercise.

“You’ll want to establish a base level of fitness,” Miller said. “You should be able to exercise three to five times a week for 20 to 60 minutes at moderate intensity before you get into pushing your heart rate up.”

If you’ve been sedentary, you might not be ready for HIIT quite yet. Talk to your primary care doctor before starting a new fitness program.

Remember to continue doing moderate intensity workouts in addition to interval training, Miller said. Start with one HIIT workout a week and work your way up to two or three

How to build an interval workout

Interval training principles can be applied to exercises you already enjoy, like walking, running, cycling, swimming and strength training.

HIIT workouts can, but don’t have to, include high-impact moves like sprints and burpees, which can be hard on the joints.

A sample HIIT workout may include:

  • 60 seconds of hard exercise.
  • 60 seconds of recovery.
  • 30 seconds of hard exercise.
  • 90 seconds of recovery.

*Repeat the sequence up to 10 times.

You should feel like you’re exercising hard or very hard during intense intervals. The recovery periods should feel very comfortable.

If you decide to try a HIIT workout, don’t be afraid to modify it to your fitness level. Watch for joint pain, muscle aches that don’t go away after a few days, chest pain or dizziness.

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