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What is HIIT training & should you be doing it??

A new and evolving field of study within the health sciences is HIIT or high intensity interval training.

It is exactly as it sounds; highly intense!!

Figures have been floating around like this, “3 minutes of HIIT training per week is more effective than moderate exercise.”

Is it true? What is it? How does it work? Should you be doing this?

1. Yes is the first answer however let us remember that such figures come from scientific studies with clearly marked outcomes. For instance the studies are not about living a healthier life, feeling better or losing 10kg of fat; they have specifically compared HIIT training to moderate exercise in most cases and the benefits to us.

2. HIIT describes any workout that alternates between intense bursts of activity and fixed periods of less-intense activity or even complete rest. A simple HIIT session may start out as 1 minute sprints followed by 2 minute rest periods for a total of 20 minutes.

3. The third answer is that high intensity interval training impacts on two key measures of fitness, VO2 max and insulin sensitivity. VO2 max is a measure of aerobic capacity or in other words how well the heart and lungs are working to get oxygen into the blood. VO2 max is the maximum amount of oxygen the body is able to use. On the other hand, insulin sensitivity is the body’s ability to remove sugar and reduce fat (yes! reduce fat!!)

4. The key to HIIT is intensity and like all exercise I highly recommend to work with a professional, at least initially to ensure you are working safely and effectively. Anyone with pre-existing conditions should always seek medical advice prior to commencing. Issues aside, mention that you want to incorporate HIIT to your trainer and let them really push you!! The only way to know whether this type of training works for you; body and mind; is to give it a go!

So what is actually happening when we do HIIT training??

  • Activating 70-80% of your muscles
  • Heart & lungs are screaming so our cardiovascular fitness (VO2 max) can be increased using this method over time
  • Glycogen stores in our muscles are broken down (more effectively) and the body is given a “shake-up” leading to improved insulin sensitivity  (see above notes on this)
  • You feel amazing!!

The other half of Mum and Daughter Blog has observed immense benefits since adopting this style of training a couple of years ago. Nadia’s fitness and wellbeing have skyrocketed and her insulin resistance is no longer ruling her life. Better still, she no longer requires medication every day of her life to control her insulin. By no means are we doctors or would we suggest that you abandon any medical treatment that you may be receiving, however take this information in and make more informed choices. Medication need not be the only solution for anyone suffering with insulin concerns.

Should you wish to see where a lot of the leading research on this field is coming from check the below video out. In it you will see Professor Jamie Timmins; a UK researcher working on the benefits of HIIT in our society; putting the presenter through a HIIT session to track changes in his health.

The first link is a clip though you can also watch the entire video below – well worth it! The title ‘The Truth About Exercise’ says it all!

A fantastic point made in this video is that above all exercise must be tailored to the individual to be of real benefit and although HIIT is a wonderful training style; it is by no means the ONLY option.

Review my #1 answer above regarding the “3-minute workout” and take into account what this study was looking to achieve. Intensely performing HIIT is of huge benefit to many people however this by no means gives us free reign to eat whatever we want and do no other exercise. As always what is vital to consider is what your goals are and perhaps HIIT will be a welcome addition to your program, if only to shock your body which can be highly useful in itself.

And the full video….

As fitness is all relative, HIIT can be effective even at the lower end of fitness capability, however I would not recommend commencing before seeking medical advice and working with the advice of a professional trainer. If you currently are walking a few days per week then it would be advisable to build on your fitness intensity prior to any HIIT training as the key is INTENSITY. Should you already be a moderate to high-level exerciser then throw some HIIT principles into your current program, track your progress and assess after 4-6 weeks. If running is not your thing try a stationery bike and the below workout:

1 minute intense efforts – with enough resistance to ensure this is tough!

2 minutes recovery – just cycle the legs around

Repeat x 10

You may have heard the term Tabata training thrown around and this is indeed a form of HIIT training that Nadia often participates in. Expect a tabata workout from her very soon…. In the meantime here is a little HIIT video from her. Stairs, stairs, stairs!!!

xx Viv


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