Don't Have Time to Exercise? Here's 7 Reason You Should Try HIIT
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.
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?
Typically, a HIIT workout will range from 10 to 30 minutes in duration.
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:
HIIT Can Burn a Lot of Calories in a Short Amount of Time
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.
Your Metabolic Rate Is Higher for Hours After Exercise
One of the ways HIIT helps you burn calories actually comes after you are done exercising.
In the same study, HIIT was also found to shift the body's metabolism toward using fat for energy rather than carbs.
Another study showed that just two minutes of HIIT in the form of sprints increased metabolism over 24 hours as much as 30 minutes of running (14).
Summary: Due to the intensity of the workout, HIIT can elevate your metabolism for hours after exercise. This results in additional calories being burned even after you have finished exercising.
It Can Help You Lose Fat
Studies have shown that HIIT can help you lose fat.
One review looked at 13 experiments and 424 overweight and obese adults.
Additionally, one study found that people performing HIIT three times per week for 20 minutes per session lost 4.4 pounds or 2 kgs, of body fat in 12 weeks—without any dietary changes (16).
Perhaps more important was the 17 percent reduction in visceral fat, or the disease-promoting fat surrounding your internal organs.
Summary: High-intensity intervals can produce similar fat loss to traditional endurance exercise, even with a much smaller time commitment. They can also reduce unhealthy visceral fat.
You Might Gain Muscle Using HIIT
Additionally, it's important to note that increases in muscle mass are more likely to occur in individuals who were less active to begin with (24).
Some research in active individuals has failed to show higher muscle mass after HIIT programs (25).
Summary: If you are not very active, you may gain some muscle by starting HIIT but not as much as if you performed weight training.
HIIT Can Improve Oxygen Consumption
Oxygen consumption refers to your muscles' ability to use oxygen, and endurance training is typically used to improve your oxygen consumption.
Traditionally, this consists of long sessions of continuous running or cycling at a steady rate.
One study found that five weeks of HIIT workouts performed four days per week for 20 minutes each session improved oxygen consumption by 9 percent (6).
This was almost identical to the improvement in oxygen consumption in the other group in the study, who cycled continuously for 40 minutes per day, four days per week.
Another study found that eight weeks of exercising on the stationary bike using traditional exercise or HIIT increased oxygen consumption by about 25 percent (7).
Once again, the total time exercising was much different between groups: 120 minutes per week for the traditional exercise versus only 60 minutes per week of HIIT.
Summary: High-intensity interval training can improve oxygen consumption as much as traditional endurance training, even if you only exercise about half as long.
It Can Reduce Heart Rate and Blood Pressure
HIIT may have important health benefits, as well.
One study found that eight weeks of HIIT on a stationary bike decreased blood pressure as much as traditional continuous endurance training in adults with high blood pressure (7).
In this study, the endurance training group exercised four days per week for 30 minutes per day, but the HIIT group only exercised three times per week for 20 minutes per day.
Some researchers have found that HIIT may even reduce blood pressure more than the frequently recommended moderate-intensity exercise (29).
However, it appears that high-intensity exercise does not typically change blood pressure in normal-weight individuals with normal blood pressure (20).
Summary: HIIT can reduce blood pressure and heart rate, primarily in overweight or obese individuals with high blood pressure.
Blood Sugar Can Be Reduced by HIIT
Based on this information, it is possible that high-intensity exercise is particularly beneficial for those at risk for type 2 diabetes.
In fact, some experiments specifically in individuals with type 2 diabetes have demonstrated the effectiveness of HIIT for improving blood sugar (32).
Summary: High-intensity interval training may be especially beneficial for those needing to reduce blood sugar and insulin resistance. These improvements have been seen in both healthy and diabetic individuals.
Reposted with permission from our media associate Authority Nutrition.
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EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
By Mark Hertsgaard
What follows are not candidate endorsements. Rather, this nonpartisan guide aims to inform voters' choices, help journalists decide what races to follow, and explore what the 2020 elections could portend for climate action in the United States in 2021 and beyond.
Will the White House Turn Green?<p>Whether the White House changes hands is the most important climate question of the 2020 elections. President Donald Trump rejects climate science, is withdrawing the United States from the Paris Agreement, and has accelerated fossil fuel development. His climate policy seems to be, as he tweeted in January when rejecting a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers proposal to protect New York City from storm surges, "Get your mops and buckets ready."</p><p>Joe Biden, who started the 2020 campaign with a climate position so weak that activists gave it an "F," called Trump a "climate arsonist" during California's recent wildfires. Biden backs a $2 trillion plan to create millions of jobs while slashing emissions—a Green New Deal in all but name. Equally striking, his running mate, California Senator Kamala Harris, has endorsed phasing out fossil fuel production—a politically explosive scientific imperative.</p><p>The race will be decided in a handful of battleground states, five of which already face grave climate dangers: Florida (hurricanes and sea-level rise), North Carolina (ditto), Texas (storms and drought), Michigan (floods), and Arizona (heat waves and drought). <a href="https://climatecommunication.yale.edu/visualizations-data/ycom-us/" target="_blank">Public concern is rising</a> in these states, but will that concern translate into votes?</p>
Will Democrats Flip the Senate, and by Enough to Pass a Green New Deal?<p>With Democrats all but certain to maintain their majority in the U.S. House of Representatives, the Senate will determine whether a potential Biden administration can actually deliver climate progress. Democrats need to pick up three seats to flip the Senate if Biden wins, four if he doesn't. But since aggressive climate policy is shunned by some Democrats, notably Joe Manchin of coal-dependent West Virginia, Democrats probably need to gain five or six Senate seats to pass a Green New Deal.</p><p>Environmentalists, including the League of Conservation Voters, are targeting six Republicans who polls suggest are vulnerable.</p><ul><li>Steve Daines of Montana, who denies climate science</li><li>Martha McSally of Arizona</li><li>Thom Tillis of North Carolina</li><li>Susan Collins of Maine</li><li>Joni Ernst of Iowa (bankrolled by Charles Koch)</li><li>John James of Michigan (also a Koch beneficiary)</li></ul><p>Republican Senators are even at risk in conservative Kansas and Alaska. In both states, the Democratic candidates are physicians—not a bad credential amid a pandemic—who support climate action. In Kansas, Barbara Bollier faces an incumbent funded by Charles Koch. In Alaska, Al Gross urges a transition away from oil, though his openness to limited drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Preserve dims his appeal to green groups. He faces incumbent Republican Dan Sullivan, who receives an 8 percent lifetime voting record from the League of Conservation Voters.</p>
Will Local and State Races Advance Climate Progress?<h4>THE CLIMATE HAWKS</h4><p>Under Democratic and Republican leadership alike, Washington has long been a graveyard for strong climate action. But governors can boost or block renewable energy; the Vermont and New Hampshire races are worth watching. Attorneys general can sue fossil fuel companies for lying about climate change; climate hawks are running for the top law enforcement seats in Montana and North Carolina. State legislatures can accelerate or delay climate progress, as the new Democratic majorities in Virginia have shown. Here, races to watch include Pennsylvania, North Carolina, and Colorado.</p><h4>THE CLIMATE POLICY MAKERS</h4><p>Perhaps the most powerful, and most overlooked, climate policy makers are public utility commissions. They control whether pipelines and other energy infrastructure gets built; they regulate whether electric utilities expand solar and energy efficiency or stick with the carbon-heavy status quo. Regulatory capture and outright corruption are not uncommon.</p><p>A prime example is Arizona, where a former two-term commissioner known as the godfather of solar in the state is seeking a comeback. Bill Mundell argues that since Arizona law permits utilities to contribute to commissioners' electoral campaigns, the companies can buy their own regulators. Which may explain why super-sunny Arizona has so little installed solar capacity.</p><p>In South Dakota, Remi Bald Eagle, a Native American U.S. Army veteran, seeks a seat on the South Dakota Public Utilities Commission, which rules on the Standing Rock oil pipeline. And in what <em>HuffPost</em> called "the most important environmental race in the country," Democrat Chrysta Castaneda, who favors phasing out oil production, is running for the Texas Railroad Commission, which despite its name decides what oil, gas, and electric companies in America's leading petro-state can build.</p>
Will the Influencers Usher in a Green New Era?<h4>THE UNCOUNTED</h4><p>The story that goes largely under-reported in every U.S. election is how few Americans vote. In 2016, some 90 million, <a href="https://www.pewresearch.org/politics/2018/08/09/an-examination-of-the-2016-electorate-based-on-validated-voters/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">roughly four out of every 10 eligible voters</a>, did not cast a ballot. Attorney Nathaniel Stinnett claims that 10 million of these nonvoters nevertheless identify as environmentalists: They support green policies, even donate to activist groups; they just don't vote. Stinnett's <a href="https://www.environmentalvoter.org/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Environmental Voter Project</a> works to awaken this sleeping giant.</p><h4>THE SUNRISE MOVEMENT</h4><p>Meanwhile, the young climate activists of the <a href="http://www.sunrisemovement.org/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Sunrise Movement</a> are already winning elections with an unabashedly Green New Deal message. More than any other group, Sunrise pushed the Green New Deal into the national political conversation, helping Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Senator Ed Markey draft the eponymous congressional resolution. In 2020, Sunrise has helped Green New Deal champions defeat centrists in Democratic primaries, with Markey dealing Representative Joe Kennedy Jr. the first defeat a Kennedy has ever suffered in a Massachusetts election. But can Sunrise also be successful against Republicans in the general elections this fall?</p><h4>THE STARPOWER</h4><p>And an intriguing wild card: celebrity firepower, grassroots activism, and big-bucks marketing have converged behind a campaign to get Latina mothers to vote climate in 2020. Latinos have long been the U.S. demographic most concerned about climate change. Now, <a href="https://votelikeamadre.com/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Vote Like A Madre</a> aims to get 5 million Latina mothers in Florida, Texas, and Arizona to the polls. Jennifer Lopez, Salma Hayak, and Lin-Manuel Miranda are urging mothers to make a "pinky promise" to vote for their kids' climate future in November. Turning out even a quarter of those 5 million voters, though no easy task, could swing the results in three states Trump must win to remain president, which brings us back to the first category, "Will the White House Turn Green?"</p>
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By Tony Carnie
South Africa is home to around 1,300 of the world's roughly 7,100 remaining cheetahs. It's also the only country in the world with significant cheetah population growth, thanks largely to a nongovernmental conservation project that depends on careful and intensive human management of small, fenced-in cheetah populations. Because most of the reserves are privately funded and properly fenced, the animals benefit from higher levels of security than in the increasingly thinly funded state reserves.
Vincent van der Merwe at a cheetah translocation. Endangered Wildlife Trust
Under Pressure<p>Cheetah populations elsewhere in Southern Africa have not prospered over the past 50 years. In Zimbabwe, cheetah numbers have crashed from 1,500 in 1975, to just 170 today. Botswana's cheetah population has held steady at around 1,500 over the same period, but illegal capture for captive breeding and conflicts with farmers and the growing human population are increasing. In Namibia, there were an estimated 3,000 cheetah in in 1975; roughly 1,400 remain today.</p><p>In contrast, South Africa's cheetah numbers have grown from about 500 in 1975 to nearly 1,300 today. Van der Merwe, who is also a Ph.D. student at the University of Cape Town's Institute for Communities and Wildlife in Africa (iCWild), says he's confident that South Africa will soon overtake Namibia and Botswana, largely because the majority of South African cheetahs are protected and managed behind fences, whereas most of the animals in the neighboring countries remain more vulnerable on mainly unfenced lands.</p><p>Wildlife researchers Florian Weise and colleagues have reported that private stock owners in Namibia still trap cheetahs mainly for translocation, but there are few public or private reserves large enough to contain them. Weise says that conservation efforts need to focus on improving tolerance toward cheetahs in commercial livestock and game farming areas to reduce indiscriminate trapping.</p><p>Van der Merwe says fences can be both a blessing and a curse. While these barriers prevent cheetahs and other wild animals from migrating naturally to breed and feed, they also protect cheetahs from the growing tide of threats from humanity and agriculture.</p><p>To simulate natural dispersion patterns that guard against inbreeding, the trust helps landowners swap their animals with other cheetah reserves elsewhere in the country. The South African metapopulation project has been so successful in boosting numbers that the trust is having to look beyond national boundaries to secure new translocation areas in Malawi, Zambia and Mozambique.</p><p>Cheetah translocations have been going on in South Africa since the mid-1960s, when the first unsuccessful attempts were made to move scores of these animals from Namibia. These relocations were mostly unsuccessful.</p>
Charli de Vos uses a VHF antenna to locate cheetahs in Phinda Game Reserve. Tony Carnie for Mongabay
Swinging for the Fences<p>But other wildlife conservation leaders have a different perspective on cheetah conservation strategy.</p><p>Gus Mills, a senior carnivore researcher retired in 2006 from SANParks, the agency that manages South Africa's national parks, after a career of more than 30 years in Kalahari and Kruger national parks. He says the focus should be on quality of living spaces rather than the quantity of cheetahs.</p><p>Mills, who was the founder of the Endangered Wildlife Trust's Carnivore Conservation Group in 1995, and who also spent six years after retirement studying cheetahs in the Kalahari, says it's more important to properly protect and, where possible, expand the size of existing protected areas.</p><p>He also advocates a triage approach to cheetah conservation, in which scarce funds and resources are focused on protecting cheetahs in formally protected areas, rather than diluting scarce resources in an attempt to try and save every single remaining cheetah population.</p><p>"People have an obsession with numbers. But I believe that it is more important to protect large landscape and habitats properly," Mills said.</p><p>He suggests that cheetahs enclosed within small reserves live in artificial conditions: "It's almost like glorified farming."</p><p>"In the long run we have to focus on consolidating formally protected areas," he added. "Africa's human population will double by 2050, so cheetah populations in unfenced areas will become unsustainable if they are eating people's livestock."</p>
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