Change Up Your Cardio Workouts with HIIT

About the author: Ryan Crawley is a fitness expert and professional writer. If you would like to hear more from Ryan, check out his website FaithfullyFitness.com for training and diet tips. Note: The opinions expressed here are not necessarily those of Life Fitness or its brands.

“Work smarter, not harder,” my father often said. And he wasn’t one to spare small advice. This was big.

In my early 20s, I became a fitness fanatic. I breathed, ate, and slept fitness. I was in the gym for 1.5 hours, four to five times a week. My routine consisted of weight training and cardio.

In my early 30s, I realized my weight training was going well, but my cardio was lacking. During this time, I met three new friends and was amazed at their fitness. The more I got to know them, the more I understood how they achieved their physical fitness. Their workout programs were quite different than mine.

They lifted weights once a week without using heavy weights. Three other days of the week, they would head down to the old high school track and run their sprint workouts. They would run as hard as they could for forty seconds, then walk for two minutes, and repeat a few times. Their longest sprint workout lasted 20 minutes. This sounded much better than my tedious half hour of cardio a few times a week.
This was my first introduction to the idea of high-intensity interval training (HIIT). I had heard of HIIT and read articles about it, but it wasn’t until I saw the results in person that I took notice. 


What is HIIT?

HIIT cardio is short, high-intensity bursts of around 20 to 45 seconds. It is followed by roughly 1 to 2 minutes of cooldown time, and then repeat. Most HIIT workouts last 30 minutes maximum and leave exercisers exhausted. You may perform HIIT workouts by sprinting, bike riding, jumping rope, or even jumping jacks. Go full speed and don’t hold back. Long periods of steady, moderate speed cardio burn fat but HIIT focuses more on the fat burning. It is so effective, it continues to burn calories and fat even after your HIIT workout has been completed.


American College of Sports Medicine

The study conducted by the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) showed that two weeks of HIIT improves aerobic capacity equal to 6 to 8 weeks of treadmill jogging. The jogging is completed at a moderate speed for 30 to 60 minutes a workout. HIIT accomplishes the same results, but with shorter workouts and in a shorter time table.

The ACSM asked more than 4,000 fitness professionals what the most popular fitness trend in 2018 is. HIIT was voted number one.

Dr. Martin Gibala

Dr. Martin Gibala, a professor of kinesiology at McMaster University, wrote a book called The One Minute Workout: Science Shows a Way to Get Fit That’s Smarter, Faster, Shorter. It was published last year and speaks about the science behind HIIT. “It appears that you can trigger the same physical adaptations to your cardiovascular system and muscles through short bursts of intense activity that you can with longer, easier bouts of exercise,” Gibala summarizes.


McMaster University

Scientists in Hamilton, Ontario at McMaster University performed a thorough study comparing HIIT against the standard workout of moderate pace for longer intervals. They took 25 young men that were not in poor physical condition and divided them into three experimental groups.
The control group was asked not to change anything they were doing for the next 12 weeks.

The second group was given a training routine that consisted of riding a stationary bike for 45 minutes each workout. It also included a two-minute warmup and a three-minute cooldown. They did this exercise routine three times a week.

The third group employed a HIIT program that had them pedaling on a stationary bike as quickly as they could for 20 seconds followed by two minutes of cool down. This HIIT program lasted only 10 minutes each time, and only one minute of it was high intensity. They did this three times a week.
After 12 weeks, results were examined. The group riding the bike for endurance rode a total of 27 hours total. The group doing the HIIT routine rode the bike for six hours with only 36 minutes of that being high intensity.

The scientists reexamined the men’s aerobic fitness, muscles and blood sugar control after 12 weeks. They found the two groups that were actively exercising—one for long endurance and the other for short interval training—had identical results. Endurance for both groups was up 20 percent. The insulin resistance for both groups had improved greatly. Plus, the men’s muscles had shown similar increases related to energy production and oxygen consumption.

Achieving the same results in much less time should be very attractive to people that are pressed for time. Hopefully, after reading this, experimenting with HIIT training is on the agenda for your next workout.