Are there benefits of adding high-intensity interval training to your exercise and weight loss plan?
High-intensity interval training benefits
When I talk with people about high-intensity interval training, I realize some use it as part of their fitness and weight loss plan, while others have no idea what I am talking about. Fitness centers have incorporated high-intensity interval training (HIIT) into their classes for many years, and fitness trainers use it when designing personalized fitness plans. In fact, if you work out, you may be applying some HIIT without even realizing it. It has become increasingly popular as a workout option. Read on to determine if it is a safe and effective fit for you.
What is high-intensity interval training?
According to the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), HIIT is a type of training that “involves repeated bouts of high-intensity effort followed by varied recovery times.”
High-intensity interval training basics
- Allows a person to perform shorter periods of vigorous exercise instead of longer periods of moderate exercise.
- Can vary from person to person and according to activity. The intense bursts of physical activity should consider your current health and fitness level.
- Can be applied to walking, running, cycling, swimming, or any burst of activity that involves raising the heart rate above 70% maximum heart rate.
- Usually involves intense periods, ranging from a few seconds to 8 minutes long and recovery periods lasting equally as long, often at 40-50% maximum heart rate. The total workout could last anywhere from 7 minutes to one hour.
High-intensity interval training benefits compared to moderate-intensity exercise
- Decreased abdominal fat and enhanced weight loss
- Superior heart and blood vessel health
- Improved blood pressure
- Improved insulin sensitivity
- Better cholesterol levels
- Shorter periods of intense exercise can save time
Applying high-intensity interval training for weight loss and fitness
- Personalize the HIIT program to your fitness level.
- If you are not currently exercising, consult with your doctor before beginning any exercise routine.
- While walking, increase your pace for 30-60 seconds every few minutes.
- If you are already active and walking or running moderately, you could walk or run uphill for 2-15 minutes at a more brisk pace.
- When cycling, speed up and switch to a harder gear for 5-7 minute intervals. Choosing a hilly route is also a natural way to include HIIT. You ride in intense mode going up hills then recover when descending.
- A physical therapist or certified exercise professional can help you design a HIIT program that fits your needs.
Is HIIT exercise safe for diabetes?
Heart disease is the number one complication of diabetes. HIIT exercise appeals to people with diabetes because vigorous exercise has superior heart-health benefits. On the other hand, you need to be smart about following precautions for intense workouts and ensure it is safe for you.
- If you don’t currently exercise, make sure to get a complete physical exam before starting any exercise program. If you have established diabetes and/or heart disease, ask your doctor if such strenuous exercise is safe for you.
- If you take insulin or insulin-enhancing medications, it is crucial to monitor your blood sugar with vigorous exercise. As exercise becomes more intense, the body relies more on carbohydrates for energy, which can lower your blood sugar. Be prepared. Always carry a quick-acting glucose source (ex: glucose tablets or gels) to rescue low blood sugar.
- If you have diabetes, tune in to how your blood sugar responds to higher intensity exercise. You may seek advice from your diabetes healthcare provider.
- If you have type 1 diabetes, HIIT requires careful planning, knowledge, and preparation to adjust your food intake and insulin delivery. Discuss with your healthcare provider whether HIIT is safe and appropriate for you.
If your healthcare provider clears the way, start weaving high-intensity interval training into your fitness routine for amazing benefits like enhanced weight loss, a healthier heart, and a stronger body.