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9 Benefits of HIIT Training

9 Benefits of HIIT Training (2021)

As one of the most popular forms of training among fitness enthusiasts across the world, the benefits of HIIT (high intensity interval training) are plentiful and come highly endorsed. It’s estimated that most people on earth don’t get enough exercise, and those are the exact demographic who would benefit most from this form of training. 

Here at OriGym, we are prepared to tackle the question of ‘what are the benefits of HIIT workouts?’ head on, by discussing the following topics:

But before we begin, have you ever wanted to work within the fitness industry? If the answer to that question is yes, then check out OriGym’s online personal training course here in order to jump start your career. 

Alternatively, you download our prospectus for further information on all of our fitness courses.

What Are HIIT Workouts?

Before we delve into the benefits of HIIT workouts, let us first offer a basic overview of what this form of training entails, for the sake of any beginners.

HIIT workouts consist of short bursts of intense exercise, followed by low-intensity periods which allow the body to recover. This type of exercise is highly regarded as one of the most efficient methods of training.  

One of the benefits of interval training is that it is highly adaptable, with multiple forms of exercise having their own unique HIIT methods. Whether you’re a runner, cycler, or powerlifter, every athlete should be able to perform a specialised type of HIIT, which is uniquely crafted to their chosen sport.  

Professional athletes and experts advise that HIIT training is most effective when performed in 10-30 minute sessions. This may seem short in comparison to an hour long jog, however, research has shown that it can be twice as effective as exercising at a consistent level. 

In order to feel the benefits of HIIT training, OriGym strongly advises thinking about these intervals as reps or rounds. For example, if you’re running you should push yourself to run as fast as you can for 30 seconds, before returning to regular speed for 2 minutes - this whole sequence would classify as one rep/round.

The benefits of HIIT workouts can only be achieved if you’re pushing yourself to the point in which your heart rate increases. Be sure to give HIIT workouts your all, by doing so you will be allowing your body to feel and reap its unique benefits.

9 Benefits of HIIT Workouts

Now we know what HIIT is, but what are the benefits of HIIT training? In this section, we will explore all the ways in which HIIT workouts can amplify our sports performance as well as benefit our overall health.

#1 - Burns More Calories 

As discussed within the previous section, one of the benefits of HIIT training is that it can be more effective than regular bouts of exercise. One way in which this has been scientifically proven is through the amount of calories lost during interval training. 

HIIT benefits the amount of calories burned as it disturbs the body’s homeostasis more so than regular exercise. Homeostasis is a self-regulating biological process, in which the body adjusts to any conditions that are optimal for survival. 

When engaging with HIIT workouts in order to return to its regular function, the body will require more oxygen and energy. In order to provide this, the body will turn to it’s calorie storage burning through it at a faster rate than it would for regular exercise. 

In 2015, a piece of research supported the theory that HIIT training benefits caloric burn, with the study showing 20-30% more calories are burned during HIIT compared to exercising at a regular pace. 

Within this particular piece of research, the benefits of interval training were achieved through 20 seconds of maximum effort, followed by a 40 second recovery period. The group of individuals being analysed burned twice as many calories when compared to the second group, in which the participants exercised at a regular rate.

Burning calories is the most effective method of weight loss, therefore when a question such as ‘is HIIT good for weight loss?’ is posed, we can confidently reassure our readers that this specific training is scientifically proven to help you to lose weight for this reason. 

To summarise, HIIT benefits the body as you will only have to exercise for a fraction of the time, but still burn more calories than you would when exercising at your usual rate. However, this is not the only way in which HIIT training can benefit weight loss.

If you’re interested in researching a healthy way to lose weight, we would strongly recommend checking out OriGym’s article on the 17 best herbs for weight loss

#2 - Boosts Your Metabolic Rate for Longer 

‘Is HIIT good for weight loss?’ - one of the most frequently asked questions surrounding this method of training. 

In addition to the role HIIT training plays in caloric burn, many people turn to HIIT as it is known to increase the body’s metabolic rate for longer periods of time, when compared to other exercise techniques. 

This process is often referred to as ‘after-burn’ and essentially means that your body will burn excess fat and calories even when you’ve stopped working out. As one of the benefits of HIIT, after-burn occurs during a period of higher levels of oxygen consumption, which is the key factor in the significant increase of your metabolic rate. 

‘After-burn’ can also be achieved through resistance training, for a full description of how this is achieved click here and read our article dedicated to the benefits of resistance training

When looking at how specifically HIIT benefits your metabolism, research has shown that it is a more effective method of exercise when compared to both regular weight lifting and jogging. This specific piece of research even went so far to prove that HIIT training benefits weight loss by shifting the body’s metabolism away from carbs and towards fats.

The study concluded by stating that 2 minutes of high intensity interval training benefits the body’s metabolic rate at the same level as 30 minutes of regular running. 

Therefore, the question ‘is HIIT good for weight loss?’, has a definitive answer of yes, as your weight will decrease through burning twice as many calories and increasing your metabolic rate.  

#3 - Helps Reduce Body Fat

As briefly discussed within the previous section, one of the advantages of HIIT training is that it can help to reduce your levels of body fat. For reference, there are two types of fat that run throughout the body, subcutaneous fat which is stored just underneath the skin, and visceral fat which surrounds vital organs. 

Visceral fat is the more dangerous of the two, as it is metabolically active meaning that it can cause damage and inflammation to the vital organs it surrounds. If you’re interested in learning more about the different types of body fat and the benefits and risks they pose, OriGym's article on the subject will be of great interest to you. 

Another example of the benefits of HIIT is that it can reduce the levels of visceral fat found within the body, reducing the potential risk of organ damage in the process. This theory is supported by a piece of research that investigated 428 overweight individuals over the course of 13 experiments. 

When investigating the effects of high intensity interval training, one of these experiments ran for 12 weeks, and found that practicing 20 minutes of HIIT for 3 days resulted in a 17% reduction of visceral fat. 

In addition to this, the same research also provided evidence which suggested that high intensity interval training benefits those who are overweight and obese, more so than other forms of exercise. 

Not only was this type of training easier to practice for said individuals, but it resulted in greater levels of weight loss and reduced body circumferences. 

Therefore, we can conclude by stating the reduced levels of visceral fat effect so much more than just your body weight. With these lower levels of fat your organs will operate in a safe and efficient manner. 

#4 - Helps You Gain Muscle 

If you are relatively new to fitness and are looking for an effective way to gain muscle mass, you’ll be pleased to know that one of the advantages of HIIT training is that it will help you to grow and develop stronger muscles.

However, when discussing muscle growth as an example of the benefits of high intensity training, it’s important to keep in mind that it will typically only develop the primary muscle being used. For example, if you are someone who frequently uses HIIT training whilst running, you’ll notice muscle development within the legs. 

If you’re looking to feel the benefits of HIIT training in multiple muscle groups we would recommend incorporating it into weight training. This will be beneficial as short intervals of pushing yourself have been found to support muscle growth and development when engaging with this specific sport. 

Take caution when practicing HIIT weight training, you should never push yourself beyond your weight capacity to the point in which you could injure yourself. 

Interestingly, many athletes claim that HIIT training benefits fitness newbies more than those who regularly exercise. This is due to the fact that when it comes to active individuals, there has been insufficient research into the relationship between HIIT training and their muscle development. 

Therefore, we can only state that HIIT benefits the muscle development of new athletes, whereas active individuals will only feel this benefit to a smaller extent through practices such as weight training. 

Do you want to gain muscle in a fast and efficient manner? If the answer to that is yes, click here for OriGym’s article on the topic of how to get bigger arms.

#5 - Improves Your Oxygen Intake 

Throughout the previous four points of this list, we have discussed the benefits of HIIT training in relation to body weight. At various stages, within these points we mentioned that HIIT training can improve your oxygen intake, which naturally prompts your metabolic rate to increase too. 

However, HIIT benefits your oxygen consumption in a variety of ways, as these increased rates can also improve your endurance levels too. Typically, when attempting to increase your endurance levels you would gradually build up over the course of time, however, HIIT training has been found to have immediate benefits. 

When referring to interval training advantages, increased oxygen levels improve endurance by improving the function of your muscles. When the muscles have more oxygen they are less likely to become fatigued, meaning you can exercise for longer periods.

When researching the benefits of interval training, it was found that performing HIIT workouts for four days a week in 20-minute intervals, will increase oxygen consumption levels by 9%. The same research also found that you’d have to work out at a regular rate for 40 minutes in order to achieve the same levels of oxygen consumption.

If you’re looking to get the most benefits of HIIT cardio to improve your oxygen consumption,

OriGym would again recommend exercising on a stationary bike. Said bikes offer you more of a chance to rest during your break periods, and will allow you to push yourself to a greater level.

If you enjoy stationary cycling then the OriGym article detailing how to become a spin instructor may interest you. 

To summarise, HIIT benefits the body more than traditional endurance training, as your body will be able to endure longer periods without becoming fatigued or injured. 

#6 - Improves Blood Sugar and Insulin Levels Reduced 

Another example of the health benefits of HIIT training is that it aids in the management of blood sugar levels, within individuals who suffer from type-2 diabetes. This is due to the fact it can improve your insulin resistance more so than traditional exercise.  

Higher insulin resistance means that the body fails to respond to insulin, a hormone that helps our bodies process glucose. Therefore, those who have higher insulin resistance will naturally have increased blood sugar levels, due to the higher amount of glucose. 

Research from the American Diabetic Association supports the claim that high intensity interval training benefits diabetic individuals. This research tested 8 participants who suffered from type-2 diabetes, on average these participants produced an average blood sugar reading of 7.6 mmol/I, 24 hours prior to training. 

Their training sessions consisted of 1-minute bouts of intense cycling, followed by 1-minute breaks, and after just 24 hours the participants averaged a much lower blood sugar level of 6.6 mmol/I. This research proves that HIIT benefits both the blood sugar and insulin levels, among type-2 diabetic individuals. 

If diabetes is a subject that is close to your heart and you want to help others, OriGym’s Level 4 Diabetes Control and Weight Management course will give you the necessary qualifications needed to become a professional on the subject, and will allow you to help others.

#7 - Reduces High Blood Pressure 

The benefits of HIIT cardio are that it improves the functioning of the endothelial, a small membrane that lines the inside of the heart and various blood vessels. When the endothelial is operating at peak performance it significantly reduces the chances of developing high blood pressure.

Multiple forms of research have shown high intensity interval training benefits overweight and obese individuals who suffer from high blood pressure.

For example, one study found that blood pressure dropped following 20 minutes of HIIT training over the course of 8 weeks. In comparison, you’d have to exercise for 40 minutes at a regular pace in order to see the same levels of reduction. 

From this research, we can conclude that HIIT benefits the blood pressure of individuals who are obese or overweight. However, unfortunately, there hasn’t been enough research into other body types, in order to determine if it will have the same effect on individuals who are underweight. 

#8 - Increases Blood Flow to The Brain

When faced with the question ‘what are the benefits of HIIT training?’, many resources only discuss how the training impacts your physical health, completely ignoring the mental benefits of HIIT training. 

The brain receives less blood as we age, as a result, mental issues such as dementia and cognitive decline begin to occur. However, when you participate in HIIT training the total accumulation of blood increases within your body, during both the exercise and recovery periods. 

Therefore, when discussing the positive effects of high intensity interval training, we can state that it positively affects the brain by bringing it more blood. During this process, blood flows through your brain's arteries and helps to bring it the oxygen and nutrients it needs to function.

Increased blood flow to the brain is regarded as an example of the benefits of interval training,  as the increased levels of blood, oxygen, and nutrients improve the connections of the neurons in your brain. In turn, this helps to improve cognitive function and reduce the risk of diseases like dementia.

General cardio exercise can also increase blood flow towards the brain and reduce the chances of these diseases in the process. For more information on the benefits of cardio and aerobic exercise please read OriGym’s article on the subject

 

#9 - No Equipment Needed

Whilst discussing interval training advantages, here at OriGym we thought it best to discuss a point that you may not have even considered. 

HIIT training can be completely free with no additional equipment required, meaning that it is the perfect exercise for those of you who are on a strict budget. 

If you’re looking to feel the free benefits of high intensity training we would recommend focusing on activities:

  • Intense Runs 
  • Hand Release Push-Ups
  • Russian Twists 
  • Plyo Push-Ups
  • Single-Leg Burpees 
  • Lateral Lunges Whilst Hopping 
  • Supermans With Lateral Raises
  • Plank Jacks
  • Mountain Climbers  
  • Tuck-Ups
  • Star Jumps
  • Plank-Ups
  • Flutter Kicks
  • Squat Thrusts

These exercises are classified as examples of interval training advantages as you can do them on the spot wherever and whenever you so wish, with no funds or gear required. 

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We hope that you’re enjoying this OriGym article detailing the 9 benefits of HIIT training. If you find this subject interesting we believe that you will also like these articles:

 

Potential Issues That May Arise During HIIT Training 

Here at OriGym, we believe it is important to educate you on all the grounds of HIIT before you take up this form of training, which means discussing interval training advantages and disadvantages. 

We have already discussed the benefits that this type of training provides, so this next section aims to dissect any potential issues that may arise during HIIT training, which in turn could cause a plethora of troubles for you. 

#1 - Heightened Risk of Exhaustion 

This point has been briefly highlighted within the research shared in the previous section dedicated to the benefits of HIIT workouts. Every single investigation proves that you don’t need to exercise for long periods of time in order to see results.

The trap that many newbies fall into is choosing to practice HIIT training for 30 minutes or longer, in the hope that it will provide their bodies with incredible benefits. However, whilst discussing interval training advantages and disadvantages it's important to acknowledge that this amount of HIIT exercise will not benefit your body. 

Alternatively, if you want to feel the benefits of interval training OriGym would recommend exercising for 10 minutes, with timed bouts of intenseness and rest. This will provide your body with the same amount of exercise as several hours of leisurely cycling.

#2 - Higher Chance of Injury and Strains 

Whilst dissecting interval training advantages and disadvantages we must discuss the risks of engaging with HIIT training too much. If you find yourself using HIIT workouts every day you will rip your muscles to shreds, and therefore we strongly advise against it. 

Allowing your muscles time to recover after an intense workout is crucial, take rest days in order to ensure that your body feels the benefits of HIIT workouts. OriGym strongly recommends only using HIIT 4 times a week, and never push yourself to the point of pain. 

Signs that point towards overtraining are decreased performance, exercise-related injuries, fatigue as well as agitation and moodiness. 

#3 - Wasting Time for Little Results 

In order for your body to appreciate the benefits of HIIT workouts, you need to get your timings right. If you choose to work out in the evenings, for example, your high metabolism will only burn one meal and not much else, as you’ll be asleep. 

However, by choosing to engage with HIIT exercises in the morning your high metabolism will be with you throughout the rest of the day. However, please remember to never exercise on an empty stomach, instead have a light breakfast 60-90 minutes before your workout in order to fuel your body. 

#4 - Doing The Wrong Warm-Up Can Mess Up Your Entire Routine

Within the debate of interval advantages and disadvantages, it’s important to take your warm-up into consideration, as practicing the one would seriously hinder your practice. 

In order to avoid this potential issue be sure to limber up, and choose to engage with dynamic stretches that mimic the exercise you will be practicing, this will prevent injuries from occurring. 

If you’re struggling to think of a warm-up session, you can always jog slowly for 5-15 minutes, this will benefit HIIT runners out there, who can then effortlessly transition from warm-up to workout. 

However, as we draw this section to a close, OriGym would like to stress that whilst it’s important to debate interval advantages and disadvantages, the practice's advantages far outweigh the disadvantages. 

How To Start HIIT Training

Many newcomers to this form of exercise frequently question ‘is HIIT effective for beginners?’, the answer to which is undoubtedly yes. However, starting out as a beginner is easier said than done, and many may require additional assistance and tips when initially starting HIIT training; that’s where we come in. 

Below we have put together four tips that will make your transition into HIIT training as fluid as possible:

#1 - Start Slowly

In order to feel the effectiveness of HIIT training, OriGym strongly advises that you start slow, and gradually build towards your desired pace. Setting unrealistic goals and forcing yourself beyond your means will only burn you out and cause exhaustion. Not only this but pushing yourself beyond the capacity of your body could lead to serious injury and put you out of action for some time.

OriGym also recommends varying your workout intensity and rest periods. By varying these workouts your body will become better acclimated to harder workouts, allowing you to gradually push yourself harder and harder.

#2 - Focus on Full-Body Movements

With HIIT training it is important that you focus on compound movements that target your body as a whole, rather than focusing on specific muscle groups. At a beginner's fitness level you should consider incorporating exercises such as squats, press-ups, push-ups and burpees into your warm-up routine. 

These types of exercises will engage your entire body, increasing your fitness level drastically and allowing you to further your practice of HIIT workouts to a greater extent. 

#3 - Be Prepared for Muscle Soreness

When you first begin incorporating HITT into your workout routines it is likely that you may experience delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS). This is due to the fact that during HIIT training you’re activating more groups of muscles than your body is used to. 

The pain caused by DOMS may vary from person to person, however, OriGym must stress the importance of pushing through DOMS while continuing your workout.

These workouts don’t necessarily need to be as intense as your regular routines, but they must be enough to challenge you. For example, you could run the same distance but at half the speed you would typically. 

However, remember that you know your body better than anyone else, and if the pain of DOMS is too much for your body to handle, never force yourself into a workout during this period. 


#4 - Beginner HIIT Workout Examples 

As a beginner, you should only incorporate HIIT into one type of exercise, for example if you wish to feel the benefits of HIIT cardio we would recommend practicing HIIT running or using a stationary exercise bike. 

Once you have perfected one method of training, you can slowly begin incorporating HIIT into different exercises and practices. 

For example, you could begin to practice HIIT burpees, box jumps, or battle ropes, alternating between these methods of HIIT will provide your body with a new challenge, which you may have otherwise struggled with, had you simply jumped straight into. 

The following are a few examples of HIIT cardio workouts:

  • Using a Stationary Exercise Bike - Push yourself to peddle as fast and hard as possible for a total of 30 seconds; make sure that this effort can be maintained consistently throughout and does not fluctuate. Gradually decrease this intensity and speed slowly for 4 minutes. Repeat this pattern for 15 to 30 minutes. 
  • Sprinting - Start by reaching a jogging pace, before breaking into a sprint, running as fast as possible for 15 seconds. Return to walking/jogging at an easy pace for two minutes. Repeat this for 10-20 minutes. 
  • Box Jumps - Set yourself a comfortable distance from the box, swing your arms upward as you dip into a quarter squat. Explode outward and jump onto the box, do this as many times as you can for 20 seconds, before returning to jumping at a slower pace for 1 minute. Repeat this for 10-15 minutes. 
  • Battle Ropes - Anchor the ropes at its center 15-20 feet away. Begin moving the rope by raising your right arm to shoulder level as quickly as you can; once the right arm begins to drop, begin to raise the left arm and repeat this process ensuring the ropes are moving as fast as possible for 30 seconds. 

Slow the ropes down and move them at a comfortable pace for 2 minutes, before repeating this process for 15-25 minutes.

FAQs

#1 - Is HIIT Safe for Beginners

Despite its intense nature, HIIT training is in fact safe for athletes of all skill levels, the important thing to remember is to work at your own pace. If you are a beginner, we would advise working at a comfortable pace and that you don’t push yourself excessively, if something is causing you immense pain or discomfort then you should stop immediately.

HIIT workouts can be catered to all abilities, what is high intensity to one person may differ greatly from somebody else; this is an adaptable form of training that will look different to everyone, however, it is accomplishable for all due to this.

In addition to this, we would advise you to ensure that your form is correct before delving into a HIIT workout. Beginners are more likely to make this mistake, and if your form is incorrect your body won’t feel the benefits of HIIT and you’ll become more susceptible to injuries. 

#2 - Do I Need to Stop Practicing HIIT As I Age?

Another benefit of high intensity training is that it can be adapted, and applied to any age group and any fitness level. What high intensity is to you will undoubtedly be different to another person, therefore the practice can be regarded as being highly versatile.

If you find yourself struggling to match the fitness levels set by your younger self, our advice would be to adapt to your current skill level. If this means operating at half the intensity, then do so in order to protect yourself from injuries and exhaustion.

#3 - Is HIIT Training Different From Strength and Resistance Training? 

While HIIT does incorporate elements of both strength and resistance training into its workouts, the end result of HIIT training greatly differs from that of forms of resistance training. When strength training aims to build muscle mass, HIIT is better for losing bodyweight and burning calories. 

Strength and resistance training requires working with added force in the form of weights, which in turn cause your muscles to contract. This leads to greater damage to your muscle tissue, a factor that helps to build muscle mass. 

On the other hand, as mentioned within the benefits section of this article, HIIT is a more effective weight loss method, as it triggers higher rates of post-exercise oxygen consumption. In turn, the previously mentioned ‘after-burn’ effect triggers the burning of calories, prompting a shift in the participant's weight. 

However, if you’re looking to build up your muscle mass significantly, then we would strongly advise combining both HIIT and strength training. Whilst you can perform high intensity bodyweight training, we would advise separating these into two different practices, by using the two practices to compliment one another, this results in higher rates of muscle growth and definition. 

Before You Go!

Here at OriGym we hope that you have found our article detailing the benefits of HIIT workouts to be both insightful and beneficial for your overall practice. Whether you’re a HIIT beginner or a seasoned pro, we wish you the best of luck within your fitness journey, as you continue to push yourself.

Please keep in mind to always practice this training safely, remember HIIT training should be a reflection of your skill level. Never push yourself beyond your capabilities in the name of training, the interpretation of high intensity will vary from person to person, and you should always train at your own pace. 

Before you go, have you ever wanted to work within the fitness industry? If the answer to that question is yes, then check out OriGym’s online personal training course here in order to jump start your career. 

Alternatively, you download our prospectus for further information on all of our fitness courses.

Resources: 

  1.  Jamie Duncharme (2018) A Quarter of Adults Don’t Get Enough Exercise, Time Magazine
  2. Zhaowei Kong et al. (2016) Comparison of High-Intensity Interval Training and Moderate-to-Vigorous Continuous Training for Cardiometabolic Health and Exercise Enjoyment in Obese Young Women: A Randomized Controlled Trial. National Library of Medicine 
  3. Paul H Falcone et al. (2015) Caloric expenditure of aerobic, resistance, or combined high-intensity interval training using a hydraulic resistance system in healthy men. National Library of Medicine. 
  4. Hailee L Wingfield et al. (2015) The acute effect of exercise modality and nutrition manipulations on post-exercise resting energy expenditure and respiratory exchange ratio in women: a randomized trial. National Library of Medicine 
  5. M Wewege et al. (2017) The effects of high-intensity interval training vs. moderate-intensity continuous training on body composition in overweight and obese adults: a systematic review and meta-analysis. National Library of Medicine 
  6. Zhaowei Kong et al. (2016) Comparison of High-Intensity Interval Training and Moderate-to-Vigorous Continuous Training for Cardiometabolic Health and Exercise Enjoyment in Obese Young Women: A Randomized Controlled Trial. National Library of Medicine 
  7. Monique E. Francois (2015) Effectiveness and Safety of High-Intensity Interval Training in Patients With Type 2 Diabetes. American Diabetes Association.
  8. Benjamin C Skutnik (2016) The Effect of Low Volume Interval Training on Resting Blood Pressure in Pre-hypertensive Subjects: A Preliminary Study. National Library of Medicine

Written by James Bickerstaff

Content Writer & Fitness Enthusiast

James holds a BA (Hons) in Creative Writing and Film Studies and has recently gained a MA degree in Film, both of which he attained from Liverpool John Moores University. After taking up the couch to 5K challenge on a whim, James found a new passion for running, which he combines with his love for healthy cooking and writing. All of this led him to becoming a copywriter for OriGym.  

When he is not writing content for the site, James can be found researching new recipes, writing music reviews, reading and watching latest film releases.   

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