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High-Intensity Workouts: Are they healthy?

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Are you someone who never finds time to fit a workout into your schedule? Or someone with a workout routine that feels long and boring? Then you’ve definitely come across the term High-Intensity Interval Training, also called HIIT, as a recommendation for you. 

In this article, we shall discuss what HIIT is, the basic science behind these types of workouts, and the various advantages and disadvantages of doing such routines. 

This will help you answer the question, “Is HIIT a healthy workout option?” for yourself

What is HIIT?

High-Intensity Interval Training, commonly abbreviated as HIIT, is a type of workout designed to maximize heart rate in a very short span of time. It is described as a workout that switches from intense bursts of activity and fixed periods of complete rest or activities of lower intensity. There are a variety of HIIT workouts to choose from such as cycling, Tabata, Crossfit, sprinting, rowing, and many more.

Why is HIIT so popular?

In this fast-paced world, many people ignore physical fitness and exercise thanks to busy schedules. 

HIIT serves as a great option to solve the problem of time constraints while ensuring people get a great workout which is beneficial to the wellness of the person. 

All you need is 15 minutes during your lunch break to sneak in an effective Tabata routine without having to push their schedule around.

HIIT is a workout that requires minimal to no equipment whatsoever. 

As a result, it is a great workout option for those with financial constraints or people looking to avoid the hassle of going to a gym to get a workout in. 

It also means you can do a HIIT anywhere and everywhere. Be it a park or the comfort of your apartment, enough space to move is all you need and you’re good to start that HIIT routine.

Benefits of HIIT

HIIT has multiple health benefits that really show when performed regularly over long periods of time. 

We list the most important benefits that make it a great workout option to consider.

  • Weight loss while regaining muscle

Many cardio workouts ensure effective fat burning, which results in weight loss. However, the weight loss is not completely due to fat loss alone, with lots of muscle mass also being lost. 

HIIT promotes muscle mass growth in beginners, but for more active individuals, helps them regulate or reduce fat levels while maintaining their muscle mass.

  •  Increase in calorie burn and metabolism

Thanks to its ability to boost heart rate to almost 80% of the maximum capacity, HIITs ensure that calories burnt by the body are much higher compared to other activities. 

HIITs also stimulates the production of the Human Growth Hormone (HGH) by upto 450%. The intense activity with minimal rest ensures the body goes into overdrive during the repair cycle, which makes the body recover faster and burn calories and fat in this period too.

  • Healthier heart and regulated sugar levels

By pushing the heart into the anaerobic zone, glucose is broken down without requiring oxygen. Research has shown that HIIT workouts reduced glucose levels within two weeks of participants in the study. As a result, diabetes is one disease that can be kept in check or even avoided by regulating doing HIIT.

  • Helps build endurance and stamina

HIIT produces faster but similar results when compared with more traditional endurance regimes. It helps increase the VO2 levels, thanks to the high intensity of training. 

On the other hand, the lack of extended rest periods in between intense periods of activity force the muscle into the active recovery zone, which ensures longer endurance and stamina over regular training. 

This is extremely beneficial for athletes and dancers looking to get in a quick but effective training before or after their regular sports or dance regimens.

Drawbacks of HIIT

HIITs are a very popular workout option, with the above-mentioned benefits being a key reason for its soaring popularity. 

However, one must also be aware of the flip side of HIIT workouts, especially if they are just starting out on making exercise and physical activity a part of their routine.

  • Increased risk of injury

HIIT routines involve complex exercises like burpees, mountain climbs, and so on. These exercises are fast and involve multiple muscle groups at the same time. As a result, learning the correct form is essential, as is maintaining it during HIIT. 

Failing to do so could result in heavy stress on the body, and lead to injuries to joints and muscles. 

This also means HIITs are recommended to be done no more than three times a week, to give the body enough time to recover. If you’re new to HIIT, we recommend you take the advice of a trainer to ensure correct form and injury-free training.

  • Advanced preparation

As mentioned above, HIIT routines involve complex exercises meant to engage different muscles across your body simultaneously. 

To prevent injuries, HIIT routines also include a great deal of warm-up and preparation before you can actually start the high-intensity workout. 

Post-workout routines include a fair bit of stretching to help with muscle recovery. As a result, the workout is still not too long but will take 15-20 minutes to complete from start to finish.

  • Causes discomfort

HIIT routines are extremely taxing on the body. While it elevates your heart rate, HIIT results in the body sliding in and out of an anaerobic state, which can lead to extreme discomfort. 

This includes feeling severe shortness of breath and severe palpitations. These symptoms are especially common in people doing HIIT for the first time, or with a very sedentary lifestyle that involves very little physical activity. 

Which physical activities qualify as HIIT?

Thanks to the popularity of HIITs in recent times, many people incorrectly classify certain activities as “high intensity” or even HIIT. 

However, not all activities qualify as HIIT as they do not elevate the heart beyond regular heart rates, which results in lowered calorie and fat burn and reduces the effectiveness of the workout.

On the other hand, common HIITs can also become low intensity if you do not keep up the required tempo of the suggested exercise or take too long of rest or break in between periods of high-intensity exercise. 

This is because the body either never gets to the required elevated heart rate, or drops too much lower levels that reduce the overall effect of the workout. 

This will also prevent anaerobic respiration from occurring, which accelerates glucose breakdown and facilitates faster fat and calorie burn.

Here are some common exercises that qualify as HIIT

  • Biking
  • Rowing
  • Tabata workouts
  • Sprinting
  • Jump rope exercises and skipping
  • Stationary bikes and ellipticals

There are various machines that you can pick to do your workout, and it is very difficult to find the best one, but fit territory covers reviews of a lot of products that can help you in your HIIT Training, we are giving you some of the best products of each category:

Rowing: SportPlus Indoor Rower (Read Review), JLL® R200  (Best Selling Rowing Machine, Read Review)

Treadmill: Weslo Cadence G 5.9 (3780+ Reviews), NordicTrack T 6.5S Treadmill: #1 Treadmill of AMAZON (Read Review)

Elliptical: Schwinn 411 (Read Review), Nautilus E614 Elliptical  (Read Review)

Conclusion

HIIT is a very popular exercise option that definitely has great health benefits, especially for those training to lose weight and improve endurance and stamina. 

It is also hugely beneficial for those with severe time and financial constraints, which rules out the option of hitting a gym regularly. 

These routines require very little equipment, but consist of a series of complex exercises that are hard to do and could lead to serious injury. 

HIIT routines are meant for all, but people without a regular fitness routine find HIITs very intense, leading to severe discomfort. 

While these facts may scare you, HIITs are still a great option to consider if you’re willing to get past the initial discomfort and satisfied with the long term benefits that HIITs provide.

Answering the question we sought to answer at the beginning of this article; Yes! High-Intensity Workouts like HIIT are beneficial. Professional advice on how to go about the individual exercises in an HIIT routine, and the determination to get over bearable amounts of discomfort initially is all you need to get started on your HIIT journey.

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