What is HIIT and Should You Be Doing It?

HIIT stands for High-Intensity Interval Training. The workout alternates between short bursts (30-60 seconds) of High-Intensity exercise followed by a similar active recovery period with the sequence repeated for about 20-30 minutes three times a week. For example, cycling as fast as you can at a high resistance for 30 seconds followed by several minutes of slow, easy cycling with lower resistance. Another example is sprinting for a minute on a track or treadmill, followed by 3-4 minutes of slow jogging.

HIIT has become a trendy workout because of the efficiency of the conditioning compared to steady-state cardio or traditional gym workouts. Research has shown that a 30-minute HIIT workout may burn 25-30% more calories than weight training, running, and biking in a similar time frame. Additional benefits include burning more fat, increasing your metabolism, and flexibility (no equipment is required). Many HIIT workouts are usually less than 30 minutes, so an ideal choice for anyone who can’t spend an hour at the gym. Research shows that HIIT is more efficient than steady-state moderate intensity exercise at improving aerobic and anaerobic fitness, cardiovascular health, resting blood pressure, fat burning both during and after exercise, muscle mass, and cholesterol levels.

Although HIIT has many benefits, this form of physical activity isn’t for everyone. To begin, you need to have a basic fitness level. The training is very intense therefore, if you’re not used to physical activity or you have not exercised before, it could cause stress on your heart. There is also a higher risk of injury as you are moving at a fast speed during the intervals. If you have a heart condition or feel dizzy when exercising, you should seek a  medical evaluation from your physician before engaging in any physical activity.

If you have never tried HIIT before and want a simple workout to get started, try adding some running intervals to a regular walking workout. For example, walk for 1 minute and 30 seconds, jog/run for 30 seconds, then repeat. Each interval is 2 minutes total, so you spend 30 seconds of the interval with an elevated heart rate, then keep your heart rate going with 90 seconds of walking. Repeat this 15 times for a great 30-minute beginner HIIT workout.

If you have tried HIIT before and are looking for an added challenge, try a flexible format so you can mix in whichever exercises/cardio you would like to do. The example workout below includes 3 sets of 3 rounds each, so you can target arms, legs, and core. Pick your cardio and your exercises and get started!

  • [30 second cardio (row/bike/run) + 3 arm exercises (15 bicep curls, 15 hammer curls, 15 push-ups)] *repeat 3 times
  • [30 second cardio (row/bike/run) + 3 leg exercises (20 reverse lunges, 15 goblet squats, 15 qlute bridges)] *repeat 3 times
  • [30 second cardio (row/bike/run) + 3 abdominal exercises (20 crunches, 15 leg lifts, 30 second plank)] *repeat 3 times

Quote of the week:

The only bad workout is the one that didn’t happen.

Recipe of the Week: Easy Buddha Bowl

This is my go-to dinner when I want something fast and nourishing. This vegan, one-bowl dish contains whole grains, plant proteins, and vegetables. You can also top with avocado and add more veggies.


¼ cup prepared brown rice

2 cups kale, steamed and chopped

½ cup Chickpea Salad (I used Cedar’s Chickpea Salad)

½ cup coleslaw mix (I used Dole Classic Coleslaw)

Prepare the brown rice according to package. I make 2-3 cups of rice so there are leftovers for other meals. Bring 2 cups of water to boil in a non-stick fry pan. Break kale from stalk, chop into bite-size pieces and place in boiling water for 1 minute, then drain. Place kale in serving bowl; add cooked rice, chickpea salad, and coleslaw mix. Toss well. You can add a little olive oil, but the dressing in the chickpea salad gives the dish a savory taste.

Published by

Leslie Ouellette

Listening and learning about nutrition, exercise, and health-related issues has been a life-long passion turned into action. I am most passionate about my family, friends, and good health. I am a business professional with over 30 years of expertise in marketing, market research, communications, writing, and editing. @balancedhealthblog

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