High Intensity Interval Training

High intensity interval training. What is it? Who is it for? And what are the benefits?

High intensity interval training offers many benefits, but you need to understand how to do it correctly in order to get those benefits.

What Is High Intensity Interval Training?

High intensity interval training (HIIT) is a type of training that involves alternating between periods of intense work, followed by periods of recovery. The recovery periods can be in the form of lower intensity/active rest, or complete rest.

How To Do A HIIT Workout Correctly

During the high intensity intervals you need to push yourself close to maximum effort. How do you know if you are using enough effort? You can use the rate of perceived exertion (RPE) scale, which is used to measure the level of effort during a given exercise or activity. An RPE of 0 is no effort, and an RPE of 10 is giving it all you’ve got. You should be aiming for about an 8 – 9 during the high intensity intervals of a HIIT workout.

The work intervals are short so that you can push hard. They are generally between 20 to 60 seconds long. Much longer and you would not be able to sustain the level of effort required to get the training benefits of a HIIT workout. Think of a sprinter versus an endurance runner. The sprinter uses explosive, all-out effort for a short period of time. While the endurance runner runs at a much slower, steady pace, for a much longer period of time. The sprinter isn’t holding back, but the endurance runner is aiming to conserve energy. Two very different styles of training (and with very different body types). During a HIIT workout, you want to be like the sprinter.

The Rest Between The High Intensity Work Is Just As Important

It’s easy to get caught up with the idea of the high intensity intervals in a HIIT workout, but the rest intervals in between are as important to get the desired training effect. The periods of rest are required to allow enough recovery so your body can work hard again in the next high intensity interval. Without the rest periods, the intensity would go down and you would essentially be doing endurance training, which is not the aim.

Benefits Of High Intensity Interval Training

Time Efficient

High intensity interval training can be very time efficient. However the shorter the HIIT workout session, the more intense the training session will be. There is a famous type of HIIT called the Tabata Protocol. Named after it’s creator Izumi Tabata, the workout lasts only 4 minutes (plus warm up and cool down). It involves alternating between intervals of 20 second work, followed by 10 seconds recovery, repeated eight times. Sounds great, but it is very intense, and not for beginners. So you can do shorter sessions, as long as you are prepared to put in the work.

It’s great for improving aerobic fitness.

Maximum oxygen uptake, or VO2Max, is a measure of the amount of oxygen that can be used by the muscles during intense exercise, and an indicator of heart and lung capacity. These are important markers of cardiorespiratory health. As with most things in life, VO2Max levels decline with age. However high intensity interval training is a great way to improve your VO2Max. As alternating between near max effort intervals, and rest intervals, causes the body to rapidly adapt and become more efficient at using oxygen.


Another benefit of HIIT workouts is that they can be done anywhere. You can do them indoors or outdoors. You don’t need any special equipment (though you can use cardio machines) other than a timer, which is a feature on pretty much every mobile phone.

Anti-Aging On A Cellular Level

Mitochondria are the powerhouses of our cells. As we age, the mitochondria begin to lose their ability to produce energy. If only there was some form of exercise that could help. You guessed it. HIIT has been shown to cause cells to produce more proteins for the mitochondria, increasing their capacity. Essentially making old mitochondria young again.

A study from 2017 found that high intensity interval training was the most beneficial form of exercise on a cellular level. The study split volunteers into two groups, young (18-30 years of age) and older (65-80 years of age). After 12 weeks they found that there was a 49% increase in mitochondrial capacity in the younger group, and a 69% increase in the older group. The higher percentage increase in the older group was due to mitochondria function being more declined, thus having more room to improve. Using a combination of high intensity interval training and strength training with weights was deemed optimal for anti-aging benefits (mitochondria function and muscle gain/retention). You could alternate between HIIT and strength training over a week to get the best of both worlds.

If You Have A Sedentary Lifestyle, You Can Still Use Interval Training

If you have been inactive for a long period of time, and you are wondering if you can do a HIIT type workout, the answer is yes. But you need to build up to it.

You can start off by getting into the habit of doing some kind of activity on a regular basis. Even just walking at a steady pace each day is a great place to start. Do this consistently, then you can move up to more moderate intensity training. After a few weeks at this level of intensity, you can then move on to higher intensity training. If you are confused about how to go about this, or if you just lack the motivation, consider hiring a personal trainer to guide and motivate you as you get started.

Who Should Avoid High Intensity Interval Training?

Obviously if you are unwell, injured, recovering from surgery, if you are pregnant, or have any medical condition where higher intensity exercise is not recommended, then high intensity interval training should be avoided. For anyone else who does not fall into the previously mentioned categories, HIIT can be a great form of exercise. However it’s always a good idea to first check with your doctor or healthcare practitioner before starting any new exercise or training program.

10 Minute Full Body High Intensity Interval Training Workout

If you would like to try a High Intensity Interval Training Workout, you can check out my HIIT workout video below:

Video and workout breakdown here


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