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Don't Have Time to Exercise? Here's 7 Reason You Should Try HIIT

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By Dr. Grant Tinsley

While most people know that physical activity is healthy, it's estimated that about 30 percent of people worldwide don't get enough (1).

Unless you have a physically demanding job, a dedicated fitness routine is likely your best bet for getting active.


Unfortunately, many people feel that they don't have enough time to exercise (2, 3).

If this sounds like you, maybe it's time to try high-intensity interval training (HIIT).

HIIT is a broad term for workouts that involve short periods of intense exercise alternated with recovery periods.

One of the biggest advantages of HIIT is that you can get maximal health benefits in minimal time.

This article explains what HIIT is and examines seven of its top health benefits.

What Is High-Intensity Interval Training?

HIIT involves short bursts of intense exercise alternated with low-intensity recovery periods. Interestingly, it is perhaps the most time-efficient way to exercise (4, 5).

Typically, a HIIT workout will range from 10 to 30 minutes in duration.

Despite how short the workout is, it can produce health benefits similar to twice as much moderate-intensity exercise (6, 7).

The actual activity being performed varies but can include sprinting, biking, jump rope or other body weight exercises.

For example, a HIIT workout using a stationary exercise bike could consist of 30 seconds of cycling as fast as possible against high resistance, followed by several minutes of slow, easy cycling with low resistance.

This would be considered one "round" or "repetition" of HIIT, and you would typically complete 4 to 6 repetitions in one workout.

The specific amount of time you exercise and recover will vary based on the activity you choose and how intensely you are exercising.

Regardless of how it is implemented, high-intensity intervals should involve short periods of vigorous exercise that make your heart rate speed up (8).

Not only does HIIT provide the benefits of longer-duration exercise in a much shorter amount of time — it may also provide some unique health benefits (4).

How to Get Started With HIIT

There are many ways to add high-intensity intervals to your exercise routine, so it isn't hard to get started.

To begin, you just need to choose your activity (running, biking, jumping, etc.).

Then, you can experiment with different durations of exercise and recovery, or how long you are performing intense exercise and how long you are recovering.

Here are a few simple examples of HIIT workouts:

  • Using a stationary bike, pedal as hard and fast as possible for 30 seconds. Then, pedal at a slow, easy pace for two to four minutes. Repeat this pattern for 15 to 30 minutes.
  • After jogging to warm up, sprint as fast as you can for 15 seconds. Then, walk or jog at a slow pace for one to two minutes. Repeat this pattern for 10 to 20 minutes.
  • Perform squat jumps (video) as quickly as possible for 30 to 90 seconds. Then, stand or walk for 30 to 90 seconds. Repeat this pattern for 10 to 20 minutes.

While these examples can get you started, you should modify your own routine based on your own preferences.

Summary: There are many ways to implement HIIT into your exercise routine. Experiment to find which routine is best for you.

The Bottom Line

High-intensity interval training is a very efficient way to exercise, and may help you burn more calories than you would with other forms of exercise.

Some of the calories burned from high-intensity intervals come from a higher metabolism, which lasts for hours after exercise.

Overall, HIIT produces many of the same health benefits as other forms of exercise in a shorter amount of time.

These benefits include lower body fat, heart rate and blood pressure. HIIT may also help lower blood sugar and improve insulin sensitivity.

So, if you are short on time and want to get active, consider trying high-intensity interval training.

Here are the seven top health benefits of HIIT:

1. HIIT Can Burn a Lot of Calories in a Short Amount of Time

You can burn calories quickly using HIIT (9, 10).

One study compared the calories burned during 30 minutes each of HIIT, weight training, running and biking.

The researchers found that HIIT burned 25–30 percent more calories than the other forms of exercise (9).

In this study, a HIIT repetition consisted of 20 seconds of maximal effort, followed by 40 seconds of rest.

This means that the participants were actually only exercising for 1/3 of the time that the running and biking groups were.

Although each workout session was 30 minutes long in this study, it is common for HIIT workouts to be much shorter than traditional exercise sessions.

This is because HIIT allows you to burn about the same amount of calories, but spend less time exercising.

Summary: HIIT may help you burn more calories than traditional exercise, or burn the same amount of calories in a shorter amount of time.

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