HIIT – What is it? How does it work?

Like most people, you may have reduced your exercise levels over the winter months and
are now hoping to get back into the swing of things. There are so many forms of exercise we
can perform to improve our general health and fitness however we often resort to the most
familiar or comfortable exercises. We end up training without any structure, purpose, or
intensity and after a while we start to lose motivation and have nothing to show for the
effort we have put in.
Have you ever tried High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)?
HIIT has become a very popular form of exercise in recent years which can be used to
achieve a range of fitness goals. Some of us may want to improve our strength, speed,
power, endurance, or simply lose/gain weight. We all want to achieve our goals as fast as
possible and HIIT is a great way to do so.

Any exercise works, just get your heart rate pumping!

HIIT involves intermittent bursts of vigorous activity (between 85-95% max heart rate) with
rest periods between each burst. HIIT is great for general health and cardiovascular disease
prevention, it has been recognised as one of the most efficient forms of exercise in its ability
to improve VO2 max (how much oxygen you can use during exercise), insulin sensitivity (how
responsive your cells are to insulin), blood pressure, and cardiovascular function. Studies
show that HIIT training for 6-8 weeks will increase aerobic capacity more than moderate
intensity continuous training such as jogging. It is also great for athletes as it is highly
performance based. It allows the individual to train sports specific exercises at a high
intensity whilst working under fatigue.
The great thing about HIIT is that is works with a variety of exercises to suit your needs and
goals. This can include cardio-based activities such as running, cycling and rowing, whilst it
also lends itself to strength-based activities such as bodyweight (push-ups, burpees) and
resistance (dumbbells, kettlebells, medicine balls) exercises.

Duration of workout and work/rest ratio are also aspects that can be adjusted depending on
your goals. For people focusing on their cardiovascular capacity, they may choose to utilise
longer work periods, with shorter rest breaks, for example, 45 seconds work to 15 seconds
rest. However, if you want to focus more on strength, quality of movement and
explosiveness you may opt for shorter work periods with longer rest breaks.

When performing HIIT, be mindful that a good warmup is crucial for injury prevention due to
the vigorous nature of the workouts. If it is your first time performing HIIT exercise it may be
a good idea to start in a supervised environment (e.g., F45 or Bodyfit gyms) until you
become accustomed to the intensity. An Osteopath can also assist by providing a tailored
program that suits your current fitness levels. Osteopaths are well trained in assessing and
improving your technique, progressively loading you through a structured program, and
reducing your risk of injury to ensure you reach your goals faster. Come see one of our
Osteopaths at Blackburn Allied Health Group if you would like help with your High Intensity
Interval Training or require treatment for any niggles or injuries that are preventing you
from performing at your best.

Dr Thomas Jacotine – Osteopath at Blackburn Allied Health Group (formerly Blackburn Osteopathy)

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