This fast-paced world we live in coupled with a need for more exercise and better health and with people’s desire to exercise smarter, not harder has greatly increased the popularity of HIIT (high intensity interval training) programs.
So, what does HIIT involve? HIIT involves short bouts of explosive, high-intense cardio exercise that lasts from 30-60 seconds followed by periods of active rest of 60-90 seconds in between each interval. These types of workouts are so popular because of the following health benefits they offer.
1. A HIIT program will enable your participants to reach their weight loss goals much quicker. This is because of a thing called post exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC). Following a high-intense interval workout, your metabolism remains elevated and your body continues to burn calories as it naturally returns to homeostasis. This process can last up to 48 hours after exercise.
2. Studies have proven that HIIT workouts aid in the preservation of muscle mass while fat mass — that extra meat on our bodies we’re all striving to lose — is reduced. “This is because HIIT boosts testosterone and human growth hormone (HGH) levels which are responsible for the gain of lean muscle tissue,” writes Sean Bartram. HGH also facilitates fat loss and slows down the aging process, thus slowing down sarcopenia, the medical term for muscle mass loss that naturally occurs as we age.
3. HIIT improves our endurance and overall health. According to Cassie Shortsleeve, “one study links improved anaerobic and aerobic endurance with improved blood pressure and higher counts of mitochondria”. Anaerobic means that your muscles are working without the presence of oxygen. You are exercising so hard, you are gasping for breath, sweating profusely and your heart is beating fast and hard against your chest. Anaerobic training is the highest level of exercise one can perform and it can be sustained only for one to two minutes. Aerobic endurance, on the other hand, happens when your muscles work with the presence of oxygen. Aerobic endurance is what enables us to work out for longer periods of time.
So, what do mitochondria have to do with anaerobic and aerobic endurance? “The mitochondria are tiny cellular structures that supply energy to the cell and also regulate cell growth” (Sean Bartram). According to an article published in the American Journal of Physiology in 2012, HIIT workouts stimulate mitochondrial biogenesis, a process in which new mitochondria are formed within a cell (Bartram). More mitochondria increase the body’s cellular energy which, in turn, decreases the risk of chronic disease. This explains why HIIT training is a preferred choice for endurance athletes and also for the average working person who is seeking an opportunity to squeeze a workout program into their busy schedule in efforts to improve their level of endurance.
4. HIIT is proven to help people who have type 2 diabetes because, according to one study, it can lower glucose levels.
5. HIIT classes are a lot of fun because there are so many different exercises that can be incorporated into them as well as a variety of formats. They are also flexible, time efficient and can be performed at the gym, at home, outside or in a hotel room while on vacation because they don’t require equipment.
So, what does all of this have to do with you as a personal trainer or group fitness instructor? There are three ways you can spice up your HIIT classes to make them motivating and enjoyable for everyone.
1. Decide on a format. Examples of class types include:
- Circuit boot camp alternating between equipment-based and body weight exercises
- Partner-based kickboxing drills
- Relay races
- Outdoor boot camps that incorporate interval running and stationary body weight exercises
- Spin classes
2. Regardless of which format you choose for your HIIT program, provide progressions and regressions to include participants of all fitness levels and encourage them to work within their target heart rate. That way everyone will have fun, feel successful and be safe.
3. Educate new participants on the above mentioned benefits of HIIT workouts by providing handouts and/or links to reputable resources online. Provide alternatives to those participants who are unable to make it regularly to your classes so that they can still reap the health benefits of exercise.
In doing so, you will attract more clients and your HIIT classes will be successful.
A note: HIIT workouts aren’t recommended for pregnant women or for people who have asthma, type 1 diabetes or osteoporosis, so it is important to properly screen every new participant and have liability insurance.
Bartram, Sean. Idiots Guide to High-Intensity Interval Training. London; Alpha, 2015.
McCall, Pete. “Benefits of HIIT Training: 8 Reasons HIIT Workouts are So Effective” American Council on Exercise, https://www.acefitness.org/education-and-resources/lifestyle/blog/5073/8-reasons-hiit-workouts-are-so-effective (accessed 19 October 2019)
Shortsleeve, Cassie. “7 Scientifically Proven Benefits of Interval Workouts” Men’s Journal, https://www.mensjournal.com/health-fitness/7-scientifically-proven-benefits-interval-workouts/ (accessed 19 October 2019)