To get the benefits of exercise, you have to do the right amount. The American College of Sports Medicine recommends you get at least 30 to 60 minutes of moderate-intensity cardio five days per week, or 20 to 60 minutes of vigorous-intensity cardio three days per week. You can do one or the other, or do HIIT cardio and increase the benefits of your workouts.
What Is HIIT?
HIIT stands for high-intensity interval training. It's a method of organizing your cardio sessions into repeated bouts of short, high-intensity exercise intervals mixed with lower-intensity bouts. In a typical HIIT workout, you begin by warming up at a moderate intensity for five to 10 minutes, then begin high-intensity intervals. For every one minute of HIIT, do two to three minutes of active recovery. For example, sprint for 30 seconds and then walk or jog for 60 to 90 seconds. Do intervals for 20 to 30 minutes and end with a five-minute cool-down.
Increase VO2 Max
VO2 max refers to how much oxygen your body uses when exercising. The higher your VO2 max, the higher your fitness level. During HIIT workouts you push your body harder than you normally would for short bursts. When you actively recover, you don't completely cool down. So you are forcing your body to adapt and change. As you do more HIIT workouts, your body becomes more efficient at using oxygen and these workouts become easier, thus improving your overall fitness and VO2 max.
Calorie Burning and Weight Control
The harder you exercise, the more calories you burn. The more calories you burn, the more body fat you can lose. Since more than two thirds of adult Americans are overweight or obese, according to the American College of Sports Medicine, HIIT is beneficial for weight-loss programs. Plus you can burn more calories in a 30-minute HIIT workout than in a 30-minute steady-state workout, so you save time. There's also the benefit of post-exercise oxygen consumption. After a workout your cells are still using oxygen and burning calories. After an HIIT workout your metabolism stays elevated longer, which also leads to increased calorie burning and weight loss.
Improved Cardiovascular Health
In a traditional cardiac rehabilitation program, low- to moderate-intensity exercise is prescribed. With regular sessions patients can improve function of their cardiovascular system and reduce their risk of future events. HIIT can do the same thing but in a shorter amount of time. Intensity is subjective and different for every person, so it can be adapted to each person's individual needs and abilities.
- ACSM's Guidelines for Exercise Testing and Prescription; American College of Sports Medicine
- American College of Sports Medicine: ACSM Issues New Recommendations on Quantity and Quality of Exercise
- American Council on Exercise: What Is High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) and What Are The Benefits?
- IDEA Health and Fitness Association: HIIT vs. Continuous Endurance Training: Battle of the Aerobic Titans
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