Summer is here (apparently) and it’s nearly time to get that dreaded swimwear on and some of us are asking ourselves, ‘how can I shift this rubber ring that’s grown around my tummy over winter?’ Fear not! Our Fitness Coach Dan is going to educate us on all things six-pac related! High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) has been heavily featured in the media recently, but what does it actually mean and what are the benefits? Let us explain…..
HIIT has been a growing trend in health, fitness and elite sport for well over a decade now and extensive research sees it an apt replacement for long, slow cardiovascular exercise. Before comparing forms of exercise it’s important to understand that no one form of exercise is ‘better’ than another. The form of exercise that best suits you will depend on what you’re trying to achieve and your time constraints.
What is HIIT training?
HIIT training has received more and more attention since the mid 90’s and is the focus of exercise science research more now than ever before. HIIT training stands for High Intensity Interval Training and involves repeated bouts of high intensity exercise that range from 5 seconds to 5 minutes in duration with short rest periods. The rationale for this type of training is that it yields a higher physiological response (heart rate etc) than that of continuous aerobic exercise, but does this make it a greater form of training?
What is continuous aerobic exercise?
Continuous aerobic exercise has historically been a more popular form of training with running, cycling and swimming all falling into this category. Continuous aerobic exercise is defined as any form of exercise lasting longer than 20 minutes at a steady state without rest. This form of training is great for general fitness and weight loss but can only go so far in stimulating high heart rate and cardiovascular responses.
Intervals versus continuous aerobic exercise
HIIT style training will typically be shorter in overall session duration as it aims to complete short repetitions at a greater intensity and will generally have short rest periods. It has been reported in the journal of exercise physiology that a 2-1 work to rest ratio (20 secs on 10 secs off) for 4 minutes, 4 times a week has the same effects as 45 minutes of moderate continuous aerobic exercise and since maximum rate at which you can consume and use oxygen is generally considered to be the best indicator of aerobic fitness it would seem that HIIT is just as, if not more effective!
A bonus of HIIT style training is that you can use strength based exercises to stimulate the high intensity effect, gaining muscle mass and definition along the way.
Of course, there are always cons to any form of exercise and HIIT training has plenty. High intensity exercise is taxing on your central nervous system and requires at least 48 hours recovery before you participate in any other forms of exercise. Too much HIIT is a good way to over train and can cause muscular damage, metabolic stress and general fatigue, although, this would take months to achieve.
So which is better?
HIIT training is an amazing form of training and should be included in everybody’s exercise routine and allows you to cut your session times down to around 30 minutes but it is crucial that you only use high intensity training a few times a week to allow your body to rest. This is where continuous aerobic exercise comes into play and allows you to exercise at a lower intensity whilst your muscles recover.
No one form of exercise offers more targeted fat loss or muscle toning capabilities than the other so an exercise plan that includes two times HIIT with a 2-1 work to rest ratio including resistance and body weight training and two times continuous exercise sessions per week seem the most time efficient and effective solution.