Are you struggling to fit in time for exercise in your busy schedule? Do you want to gain the most benefits from your workout routine without spending hours in the gym? Well, we have a solution for you!
In this article, we lay out everything you need to know about high-intensity interval training (HIIT) and its benefits for your health and wellbeing.
So, What is HIIT?
High-intensity interval training or HIIT is a form of exercise where you perform short bouts of intense anaerobic exercise interspersed with short periods of rest. So, why is it so special?
The clue lies in the words `high intensity’, and by that, we mean pushing waaaay past your comfort zone. Forget the long hours of sitting on a bike reading a magazine or watching a TV show all the while wondering to yourself “Why am I doing this again?”.
HIIT exercises will get you gasping for air and your muscles burning in no time, but the real magic begins AFTER your workout. Even though the workout itself never lasts longer than 30-35 minutes, your body will continue to burn extra calories for HOURS after your exercise. Learn more about this afterburn effect in our ‘EPOC and the ION Effect’ article.
There are various different ways to perform HIIT exercises, whether it’s sprinting, cycling, incorporating bodyweight movements or free weights. But we are big believers in functional, multi-joint exercises that will give you the biggest bang for your buck. Therefore, we refer to our classes as High-Intensity Functional Training, where we incorporate low skilled, functional exercises that are scalable to match your specific needs.
Now that we got that out of the way, let’s look at what science has to say about HIIT…
6 Benefits of HIIT
1. Live Longer
Do you want to live a long and healthy life? It’s no surprise to anyone – exercise keeps you healthy. Researchers have long suspected that exercise has a positive effect on our bodies down to the cellular level, but didn’t have enough clues as to which exercises that enable cells to rebuild key structures that deteriorate with ageing.
A study published in Cell Metabolism found that high-intensity interval training enabled cells to produce more proteins for their energy-producing mitochondria and their protein-building ribosomes, effectively stopping ageing at the cellular level.
The study recruited 36 men and 36 women from two different age groups – 18-30 and 65-80 years old – into three various exercise programmes: high-intensity interval biking, strength training, and a combination of HIIT and strength training sessions.
Researchers found that the younger group involved in the HIIT programme saw a 49% increase in mitochondrial capacity, and the older group saw an even more dramatic 69% increase. However, when it comes to building muscle mass, solely relying on aerobic HIIT exercises won’t help you improve muscle strength, which usually declines with ageing. Therefore, we still need to add strength training exercises for an overall healthy and strong body.
That is why we add functional, strength-based exercises to our Assault classes – to enable you to become fitter, healthier and stronger in less time.
2. Burn More Fat…
If your goal is to burn fat and lean down, then HIIT should be your go-to option. When we need to shed some extra pounds, we tend to gravitate towards steady-state cardio and adding more running sessions or training for a marathon to keep the motivation going. However, this approach is not the most efficient way to lean down. When you have a busy lifestyle, it’s hard to carve out hours and hours of daily exercise, not to mention the amount of motivation you need to sustain to keep it up.
An analysis published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine compared HIIT with a continuous moderate-intensity workout for overall weight loss and decreased body fat percentage. Both workouts helped to reduce overall weight and fat percentage. However, HIIT leads to a 28.5 % greater reduction in weight.
As a result, you don’t just lose more fat, but you also save much more time by doing so. Just imagine how much more you would be able to achieve in your life, relationships and career with that extra time on your hands!
3. …and Keep It Off
Losing weight is just half of a problem, but keeping it off – that’s where the struggle is real. There are hundreds of different diets and exercise programmes promising epic transformations. And people do tend to get positive results with these programmes. But are these programmes sustainable? And are people able to actually keep the weight off after finishing the programme? In most cases, the answer is NO. 80% of people who lose weight by dieting gain all of it back in a four- to five-year period. As a result, we are stuck in this vicious cycle of gaining weight, dieting down, and then gaining it back again…
Fortunately, there is a better way of achieving the physique you want. In a study published in the American Journal of Physiology, researchers looked at how HIIT impacts our metabolic rate.
When we combine dieting with moderate-intensity exercises such as dancing or jogging, our metabolism tends to slow down. As a result, we lose some of our muscle mass which leads to a slower metabolism, meaning that you burn even fewer calories and it’s then harder to keep losing weight as the time goes on.
The team found that, in the presence of a calorie-restricted diet, HIIT exercise training preserved muscle mass and maintained energy expenditure over time. This makes the weight loss process more enjoyable and effective. It is also easier to sustain, as it’s so time efficient! We don’t always have an hour to spare every single day, but we can always find 20-30 minutes to move.
4. Reduce Stress and Anxiety
Stress and anxiety are some of the most common issues in modern life. More and more people are in a state of chronic stress, leading to more health issues later down the road. However, choosing the right exercise type can help you to manage your stress and anxiety levels and improve your overall health.
A study by researchers at the University of Missouri-Columbia shows that a relatively high-intensity exercise is far better for reducing stress and anxiety than moderate exercise intensity.
In the study, participants in the age groups of 18-20 and 35-45 completed three different sessions. Before each session, researchers tested participants’ anxiety levels, to determine their starting point. After the test, the participants either didn’t exercise at all, exercised at a moderate intensity, or at a high-intensity level for 33 minutes. Then, participants were tested again for their anxiety levels at 5, 30, 60 and 90 minutes post-exercise.
Whilst all three conditions saw a decline in the anxiety levels, the HIIT sessions experienced the sharpest decline. HIIT exercise group saw the biggest difference in anxiety levels 30, 90 minutes after the workout, meaning that you get longer-lasting stress-relieving benefits.
So, next time you feel stressed at work, just take an active lunch break and try out a HIIT class to get back to your cool, calm and collected self.
5. Improve Your Mood
According to Mind, approximately 1 in 4 people in the UK will experience a mental health issue each year. This is becoming a serious problem in our modern life, with ever-increasing stress levels.
In order to cope, we tend to then reach for foods and drinks that give us that dopamine rush. Unfortunately, most of the time these foods tend to be highly processed, high sugar foods that only lead to overconsumption. Therefore, it’s important to find better, healthier ways to cope with mental health issues.
Researchers found that exercise-induced endorphin release in the brain depends on the intensity of the exercise. In their study, they compared HIIT exercise with less demanding, traditional one-hour aerobic exercise. They discovered that HIIT significantly increased the release of endorphins, which helps us to alleviate physical and emotional stress. On the other hand, traditional aerobic exercise didn’t have a similar effect.
This is also an important factor to consider when looking at exercise motivation and consistency. HIIT induced endorphin rush supports exercise motivation and maintenance of regular workout schedule.
In other words, you are more likely to stick with this exercise long-term because you get more positive emotions from it. So, instead of being a one-off workout plan, it becomes a part of your lifestyle.
6. Boost Your Memory
Do you want to boost your brainpower? When we think of exercise, improving our memory is the last thing on our minds. We tend to associate the benefits of exercise on extrinsic factors like how we look, rather intrinsic benefits such as how we feel or how we perform during our day-to-day tasks.
However, exercise has so much more to offer! We encourage you to stop putting yourself in a box (aesthetics), and start thinking bigger picture. Improving your brainpower and memory can help you reach your full intellectual potential.
Eddie, the main character in Limitless movie, had to try nootropic to acquire perfect recollection of everything he has ever read. Well, what if we told you that you don’t need an NZT-48? All you need is a proper diet and HIIT in your life and you will soon feel the change happening within you.
Research published in the Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience found that HIIT workouts lead to significant improvements in memory. These findings are important, as memory performance in participants increased over a relatively short period of time. So, you don’t need years to see the improvement in your memory.
So, Where Should I Start?
Isn’t it amazing that just by adding a few HIIT workouts throughout the week, you are able to live longer, improve your memory, burn fat, increase your mood and fight chronic stress and anxiety? If you want to experience all these benefits yourself, but not sure where to start, then why not try our ION45 classes?
Our 45 min Functional HIIT class is Cardiff’s Number 1 Conditioning Class suitable for all levels of fitness. Our classes feature low skill, full-body movements that are all scalable to individual ability such as kettlebell swings, ball slams and cardio equipment – rower, bikes, ski erg. We have 3 formats to our ION Assault 2.0 classes:
𝗜𝗢𝗡 𝗔𝘀𝘀𝗮𝘂𝗹𝘁 𝗘𝗻𝗱𝘂𝗿𝗮𝗻𝗰𝗲 (Longer Intervals, Short Rest, Continual Rounds)
Here’s what this looks like in a class setting:
45 sec On: 15 sec Off
60 sec Rest
40 sec On: 20 sec Off
60 sec Rest
30 sec On: 15 sec Off
𝗜𝗢𝗡45 𝗧𝘂𝗿𝗯𝗼 (Short Intervals, Short Rest, High Intensity)
So, for this one your intervals would like this:
Round 1 – 20 sec Work:10 sec Rest
Round 2 – 15sec Work: 15 sec Rest
𝗜𝗢𝗡45 𝗛𝘆𝗯𝗿𝗶𝗱 (Combination of Endurance and Turbo)
As the name suggests, Assault Hybrid is a mixture of the two above and usually looks like this:
45 sec On : 15 sec Off
1 min rest
40 sec On :20 sec Off
1 min Rest
30 sec On :15 Sec off
1 min rest
20 sec on : 10 sec off
As you can see, all our classes incorporate simple but effective exercises, that can be easily modified if needed. And the best part is that the total workout time is just under 35 minutes!
ION45 Workouts are rotated on a daily basis to allow variety within sessions and provide members with highly effective workouts that will light up their metabolism and take their fitness to another level.