Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

Help Support EcoWatch

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

Popular
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.


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:

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.

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.

Several studies have demonstrated HIIT's impressive ability to increase your metabolic rate for hours after exercise (11, 12, 13).

Some researchers have even found that HIIT increases your metabolism after exercise more so than jogging and weight training (11).

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.

Interestingly, it found that both HIIT and traditional moderate-intensity exercise can reduce body fat and waist circumference (15).

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.

Several other studies also indicate that body fat can be reduced with HIIT, despite the relatively low time commitment (17, 18, 19).

However, like other forms of exercise, HIIT may be most effective for fat loss in those who are overweight or obese (20, 21).

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

In addition to helping with fat loss, HIIT could help increase muscle mass in certain individuals (21, 22, 23).

However, the gain in muscle mass is primarily in the muscles being used the most, often the trunk and legs (16, 21, 23).

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).

Weight training continues to be the "gold standard" form of exercise to increase muscle mass, but high-intensity intervals could support a small amount of muscle growth (24, 26).

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.

However, it appears that HIIT can produce the same benefits in a shorter amount of time (20, 21, 27).

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.

Additional studies also demonstrate that HIIT can improve oxygen consumption (25, 28).

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.

A large amount of research indicates that it can reduce heart rate and blood pressure in overweight and obese individuals, who often have high blood pressure (20).

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

Blood sugar can be reduced by HIIT programs lasting less than 12 weeks (20, 30).

A summary of 50 different studies found that not only does HIIT reduce blood sugar, but it also improves insulin resistance more than traditional continuous exercise (31).

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).

However, research in healthy individuals indicates that HIIT may be able to improve insulin resistance even more than traditional continuous exercise (27).

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.

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

A bald eagle flies over Lake Michigan. KURJANPHOTO / iStock / Getty Images Plus

A Michigan bald eagle proved that nature can still triumph over machines when it attacked and drowned a nearly $1,000 government drone.

Read More Show Less
The peloton ride passes through fire-ravaged Fox Creek Road in Adelaide Hills, South Australia, during the Tour Down Under cycling event on January 23, 2020. Brenton Edwards / AFP / Getty Images

A professional cycling race in Australia is under attack for its connections to a major oil and gas producer, the Guardian reports.

Read More Show Less
UQ study lead Francisca Ribeiro inspects oysters. The study of five different seafoods revealed plastic in every sample. University of Queensland

A new study of five different kinds of seafood revealed traces of plastic in every sample tested.

Read More Show Less
Cottongrass blows in the wind at the edge of Etivlik Lake, Alaska. Western Arctic National Parklands / Wikimedia Commons / CC by 2.0

By Tara Lohan

Warming temperatures on land and in the water are already forcing many species to seek out more hospitable environments. Atlantic mackerel are swimming farther north; mountain-dwelling pikas are moving upslope; some migratory birds are altering the timing of their flights.

Numerous studies have tracked these shifting ranges, looked at the importance of wildlife corridors to protect these migrations, and identified climate refugia where some species may find a safer climatic haven.

"There's a huge amount of scientific literature about where species will have to move as the climate warms," says U.C. Berkeley biogeographer Matthew Kling. "But there hasn't been much work in terms of actually thinking about how they're going to get there — at least not when it comes to wind-dispersed plants."

Kling and David Ackerly, professor and dean of the College of Natural Resources at U.C. Berkeley, have taken a stab at filling this knowledge gap. Their recent study, published in Nature Climate Change, looks at the vulnerability of wind-dispersed species to climate change.

It's an important field of research, because while a fish can more easily swim toward colder waters, a tree may find its wind-blown seeds landing in places and conditions where they're not adapted to grow.

Kling is careful to point out that the researchers weren't asking how climate change was going to change wind; other research suggests there likely won't be big shifts in global wind patterns.

Instead the study involved exploring those wind patterns — including direction, speed and variability — across the globe. The wind data was then integrated with data on climate variation to build models trying to predict vulnerability patterns showing where wind may either help or hinder biodiversity from responding to climate change.

One of the study's findings was that wind-dispersed or wind-pollinated trees in the tropics and on the windward sides of mountain ranges are more likely to be vulnerable, since the wind isn't likely to move those dispersers in the right direction for a climate-friendly environment.

The researchers also looked specifically at lodgepole pines, a species that's both wind-dispersed and wind-pollinated.

They found that populations of lodgepole pines that already grow along the warmer and drier edges of the species' current range could very well be under threat due to rising temperatures and related climate alterations.

"As temperature increases, we need to think about how the genes that are evolved to tolerate drought and heat are going to get to the portions of the species' range that are going to be getting drier and hotter," says Kling. "So that's what we were able to take a stab at predicting and estimating with these wind models — which populations are mostly likely to receive those beneficial genes in the future."

That's important, he says, because wind-dispersed species like pines, willows and poplars are often keystone species whole ecosystems depend upon — especially in temperate and boreal forests.

And there are even more plants that rely on pollen dispersal by wind.

"That's going to be important for moving genes from the warmer parts of a species' range to the cooler parts of the species' range," he says. "This is not just about species' ranges shifting, but also genetic changes within species."

Kling says this line of research is just beginning, and much more needs to be done to test these models in the field. But there could be important conservation-related benefits to that work.

"All these species and genes need to migrate long distances and we can be thinking more about habitat connectivity and the vulnerability of these systems," he says.

The more we learn, the more we may be able to do to help species adapt.

"The idea is that there will be some landscapes where the wind is likely to help these systems naturally adapt to climate change without much intervention, and other places where land managers might really need to intervene," he says. "That could involve using assisted migration or assisted gene flow to actually get in there, moving seeds or planting trees to help them keep up with rapid climate change."


Tara Lohan is deputy editor of The Revelator and has worked for more than a decade as a digital editor and environmental journalist focused on the intersections of energy, water and climate. Her work has been published by The Nation, American Prospect, High Country News, Grist, Pacific Standard and others. She is the editor of two books on the global water crisis. http://twitter.com/TaraLohan

Reposted with permission from The Revelator.

An illustration depicts the extinct woolly rhino. Heinrich Harder / Wikimedia Commons

The last Ice Age eliminated some giant mammals, like the woolly rhino. Conventional thinking initially attributed their extinction to hunting. While overhunting may have contributed, a new study pinpointed a different reason for the woolly rhinos' extinction: climate change.

The last of the woolly rhinos went extinct in Siberia nearly 14,000 years ago, just when the Earth's climate began changing from its frozen conditions to something warmer, wetter and less favorable to the large land mammal. DNA tests conducted by scientists on 14 well-preserved rhinos point to rapid warming as the culprit, CNN reported.

"Humans are well known to alter their environment and so the assumption is that if it was a large animal it would have been useful to people as food and that must have caused its demise," says Edana Lord, a graduate student at the Center for Paleogenetics in Stockholm, Sweden, and co-first author of the paper, Smithsonian Magazine reported. "But our findings highlight the role of rapid climate change in the woolly rhino's extinction."

The study, published in Current Biology, notes that the rhino population stayed fairly consistent for tens of thousands of years until 18,500 years ago. That means that people and rhinos lived together in Northern Siberia for roughly 13,000 years before rhinos went extinct, Science News reported.

The findings are an ominous harbinger for large species during the current climate crisis. As EcoWatch reported, nearly 1,000 species are expected to go extinct within the next 100 years due to their inability to adapt to a rapidly changing climate. Tigers, eagles and rhinos are especially vulnerable.

The difference between now and the phenomenon 14,000 years ago is that human activity is directly responsible for the current climate crisis.

To figure out the cause of the woolly rhinos' extinction, scientists examined DNA from different rhinos across Siberia. The tissue, bone and hair samples allowed them to deduce the population size and diversity for tens of thousands of years prior to extinction, CNN reported.

Researchers spent years exploring the Siberian permafrost to find enough samples. Then they had to look for pristine genetic material, Smithsonian Magazine reported.

It turns out the wooly rhinos actually thrived as they lived alongside humans.

"It was initially thought that humans appeared in northeastern Siberia fourteen or fifteen thousand years ago, around when the woolly rhinoceros went extinct. But recently, there have been several discoveries of much older human occupation sites, the most famous of which is around thirty thousand years old," senior author Love Dalén, a professor of evolutionary genetics at the Center for Paleogenetics, said in a press release.

"This paper shows that woolly rhino coexisted with people for millennia without any significant impact on their population," Grant Zazula, a paleontologist for Canada's Yukon territory and Simon Fraser University who was not involved in the research, told Smithsonian Magazine. "Then all of a sudden the climate changed and they went extinct."

A large patch of leaked oil and the vessel MV Wakashio near Blue Bay Marine Park off the coast of southeast Mauritius on Aug. 6, 2020. AFP via Getty Images

The environmental disaster that Mauritius is facing is starting to appear as its pristine waters turn black, its fish wash up dead, and its sea birds are unable to take flight, as they are limp under the weight of the fuel covering them. For all the damage to the centuries-old coral that surrounds the tiny island nation in the Indian Ocean, scientists are realizing that the damage could have been much worse and there are broad lessons for the shipping industry, according to Al Jazeera.

Read More Show Less

Trending

A quality engineer examines new solar panels in a factory. alvarez / Getty Images

Transitioning to renewable energy can help reduce global warming, and Jennie Stephens of Northeastern University says it can also drive social change.

For example, she says that locally owned businesses can lead the local clean energy economy and create new jobs in underserved communities.

"We really need to think about … connecting climate and energy with other issues that people wake up every day really worried about," she says, "whether it be jobs, housing, transportation, health and well-being."

To maximize that potential, she says the energy sector must have more women and people of color in positions of influence. Research shows that leadership in the solar industry, for example, is currently dominated by white men.

"I think that a more inclusive, diverse leadership is essential to be able to effectively make these connections," Stephens says. "Diversity is not just about who people are and their identity, but the ideas and the priorities and the approaches and the lens that they bring to the world."

So she says by elevating diverse voices, organizations can better connect the climate benefits of clean energy with social and economic transformation.

Reposted with permission from Yale Climate Connections.