Is HIIT the best way to hit your fitness goals? We broke down the pros and cons.

If you’re into fitness, chances are you’ve probably heard the term HIIT, which stands for High-Intensity Interval Training. 

As the name implies, these workouts are meant to be intense. There’s a difference between High Intensity Training, Interval Training, and High Intensity Interval Training. What makes HIIT so unique is that it combines brief periods of all-out effort with short rest intervals. 

It’s a trendy workout right now touting lots of benefits, including burning a whole lot of calories and blasting fat in as little as four minutes. 

The pros to HIIT training include: 

  • Higher calorie burn 
  • Boosts endurance 
  • Increases metabolism
  • Helps regulate insulin levels 
  • Shorter workouts 
  • Can be done with or without equipment 

In terms of effort, HIIT routines typically require a 9 out of 10 effort. In a HIIT workout, the harder you work, the more oxygen your body needs, and the greater number of calories you’ll burn. It also increases the calories you burn post-exercise because your body is still working to increase oxygen intake and restore your body to normal levels for an extended period of time after the workout is complete.  

Since your activity levels should be at a high effort, the rest intervals are integral to HIIT. The periods of activity are short, intense bursts that use up the body’s immediate source of ATP (your bodies system for storing and transferring chemical energy), so during rest periods your body is working to metabolize more ATP. If you’re doing HIIT correctly, you’ll feel like you’re out of breath during your rest. 

So, burn a lot calories in a short amount of time? Sounds great, right?  

However, there are some downsides to HIIT that should be taken into consideration before jumping into a new, high intensity fitness regimen.

It’s true – you can get too much of a good thing. Because HIIT is so intense and the goal is to reach a near-maximal effort, it should only be done a maximum of three times per week. Doing HIIT too frequently might prevent your body from fully recovering, meaning you can’t hit the intensity level that you should be hitting. Tiring during a HIIT routine can also result in poor form and technique, which increases the chances for injury.  

This type of training is also not recommended for novice exercises, as it is complicated and requires proper warm-up, form, and cool-down. Novice exercisers might not have the proper form and base-level of fitness needed to complete high intensity workouts, putting them at an increased risk of injury. HIIT is also not appropriate for anyone suffering from a heart condition or other health issues that might be aggravated by intense effort (unless approved by a doctor). 

HIIT, in general, has a greater potential for injury because of the rapid pace and potentially complex moves. Ultimately, it’s much easier to pull a muscle when you’re performing fast-paced exercises with poor form. Because you’re putting heavy stress on your body with HIIT, it can also cause overuse injuries and joint strains. Again, rest is key both in between sets and sessions.  

It’s convenient that HIIT can be done in a short amount of time, but it’s recommended that everyone get 150 minutes of moderate exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise in a week. If you’re only doing short HIIT workouts, you probably won’t hit that goal. It’s generally recommended that you include some lowtomedium cardio exercise and some resistance training throughout the week. 

Working HIIT workouts into your fitness regimen can be a great way to achieve goals related to weight-loss, toning and cardiovascular health – especially for those strapped for time – but it shouldn’t be your only method of exercise. When performed correctly, with consideration for your own body’s abilities, rest periods and proper form, HIIT can supercharge your activity levels.