HIIT Workouts: Everything You Need to Know to Benefit From Your Workout
Learn How Often to Do HIIT Workouts to Optimize the Benefits and Protect Your Health.
HIIT workouts are a hot topic in the wellness space. Whether you’re an exercise fanatic or just trying to reach your health goals, you’ve probably heard of HIIT yourself.
If I’m being honest, it’s easy to understand their appeal!
HIIT exercises can burn a lot of calories in a short amount of time. That’s sort of the “jackpot” we’re all looking for, right?
The health benefits can actually be much richer than this, but more importantly, so can the drawbacks.
As a health practitioner, I have a lot of patients come to me saying they’re doing everything “right” – restricting “bad” foods & doing HIIT daily – but they still aren’t reaching their goals.
How is this possible?
Well, while HIIT can be an excellent workout, this regimen can do more harm than good if you aren’t considering a few important factors.
So let’s cover it all!
Today we’re getting into everything you need to know, from how often you should do HIIT workouts to how long they should be, so you can benefit from your exercise and protect your health.
What is HIIT?
First, let’s make sure we’re on the same page.
HIIT stands for “High-Intensity Interval Training”. As the name suggests, these workouts are designed to be… intense.
But they’re quick! Typically, a HIIT workout should be 10-30 minutes long – 20 minutes is the sweet spot! More on this later. 😉
It’s structured to include a series of exercises with bursts of high intensity (30-60 seconds), followed by shorter periods of rest (10-30 seconds).
These quick bursts of intense exercise shift your body into an anaerobic state, so your body burns fat rather than carbs for energy. 
Hence, the basis of its appeal!
What Are the Benefits of HIIT Workouts?
We’ve touched on a key benefit that piques most people’s interest, and that is the quick and effective nature of the workout.
Don’t get me wrong – this is an awesome way to sneak movement into our fast-paced lifestyles!
But beyond this, there are even more powerful potential health benefits linked to this form of exercise – when done correctly.
HIIT workouts can also:
- Improve your heart health.
These workouts are structured to boost your cardiovascular fitness quickly by working hard for short periods of time, rather than light-medium work for longer. 
Studies also show that HIIT can lower blood pressure and reduce heart rate in some people, improving blood and oxygen flow to the heart. 
- Boost your metabolism.
HIIT workouts can boost your metabolic rate for hours after you’ve completed your workout.  Even up to a whole day afterward!
This means your body will continue to burn (more) calories after your workout, even while resting
- Reduce blood sugar.
People with high blood sugar could especially benefit from HIIT, as studies show that it’s effective at both lowering blood sugar and improving insulin resistance. 
Reduced blood sugar levels can contribute to weight loss, decrease your risk of heart attack, and ultimately protect your heart.
Now, before we go any further, I need to mention one disclaimer:
Remember that your unique body is unlike anyone else, and so this type of exercise may not be beneficial for you.
And if you’re somebody who *would* benefit from HIIT, it’s essential to implement this workout regimen in a healthy way.
Now, let’s dive into exactly what I mean by this.
What Things Should You Consider?
I recommend speaking with your trusted healthcare provider or holistic nutritionist before starting any new workout regimen to be sure it’s safe for your body!
Once you’ve got the green light, here are a few things to consider:
- How often to do HIIT workouts.
Excuse me while I shout this one:
REST IS AN ESSENTIAL PART OF ANY WORKOUT REGIMEN!
Overdoing HIIT (or any exercise) can put your body under high stress and raise your cortisol levels. This is counterproductive since excess amounts of cortisol can lead to weight gain. 
Your body also needs time to repair and recover in order to actually benefit from your workout. And like me, I know you don’t want to put in all that hard work for nothing!
For this reason, I don’t recommend doing HIIT workouts every day. Give your body a day or two in between workouts for rest.
Now, this doesn’t mean you can’t move your body on those “off” days! Active recovery, which involves light physical activity, increases blood circulation which helps repair and rebuilds your muscles. 
Walking, riding a bike, or doing gentle yoga are all awesome ways to practice active recovery. This time will allow your body to grow stronger so you can continue to perform at your best!
- How long is healthy?
Certain high-intensity workout classes – looking at you, Orange Theory! – have created this idea that HIIT classes can or should be an hour long to gain maximum results.
But pushing your body at high intensity for that long can actually be harmful, and not to mention, dangerous.
Not only are you more likely to burn out mentally, but your performance (or form) will likely suffer, which can lead to muscle fatigue and injury.
HIIT workouts are designed to be between 10-30 minutes for a reason! I tell my patients that 20 minutes is the sweet spot to avoid burning yourself out.
Longer does not always equal better.
- Your age matters.
Emerging research suggests the conversation surrounding age and HIIT is twofold.
For starters, there are benefits that apply specifically to adults. One study conducted by Mayo Clinic found that high-intensity training can actually reverse aging and muscle decline. 
The takeaway of the study was that while all exercise is beneficial, HIIT can be the best form for adults. Talk about optimizing your workout!
The other side of the conversation is that HIIT workouts may actually be harmful to young women who are still in their reproductive years by throwing their hormones off balance.
One study found that young women practicing HIIT experienced a significant increase in estrogen levels.  This hormonal imbalance can lead to serious health problems in young women.
So, if you’re still in your reproductive years, it may be a good idea to avoid HIIT and stick to low-intensity workouts. Again, consult with your provider to make the best decision for you.
Be Mindful of Your Exercise
The bottom line is that when done correctly, HIIT workouts can have major benefits for certain people (especially, the older you get ;)).
But for others, it can have the opposite effect.
This means being mindful of your workout – giving yourself periods to recover, keeping high-intensity short, and considering what’s best for your unique body – will ultimately deliver the results you’re looking for.
If you’re ready for a personalized wellness plan that’s best for YOUR body and mind, schedule an initial consultation with me! I’m here to support you in your journey to optimal health!
- (2019, August 26). The science behind the ever-so-popular high-intensity interval training (HIIT) workout-Health News,. Firstpost. https://www.firstpost.com/health/the-science-behind-the-ever-so-popular-high-intensity-interval-training-hiit-workout-7220001.html
- Corliss, J. (2021, December 1). High-intensity exercise and your heart. Harvard Health. https://www.health.harvard.edu/exercise-and-fitness/high-intensity-exercise-and-your-heart
- Batacan, R. B., Duncan, M. J., Dalbo, V. J., Tucker, P. S., & Fenning, A. S. (2016). Effects of high-intensity interval training on cardiometabolic health: a systematic review and meta-analysis of intervention studies. British Journal of Sports Medicine, 51(6), 494–503. https://doi.org/10.1136/bjsports-2015-095841
- Schubert, M. M. (2017, December 15). Energy compensation after sprint- and high-intensity interval training. PLOS ONE. https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0189590
- Jelleyman, C., Yates, T., O’Donovan, G., Gray, L. J., King, J. A., Khunti, K., & Davies, M. J. (2015). The effects of high-intensity interval training on glucose regulation and insulin resistance: a meta-analysis. Obesity reviews : an official journal of the International Association for the Study of Obesity, 16(11), 942–961. https://doi.org/10.1111/obr.12317
- Ansorge, R. (2022, February 11). Rest and recovery are critical for an athlete’s physiological and psychological well-being. UCHealth Today. https://www.uchealth.org/today/rest-and-recovery-for-athletes-physiological-psychological-well-being/
- Nellis, R. (2018, November 13). Mayo Clinic discovers high-intensity aerobic training can reverse aging processes in adults. Mayo Clinic News Network. https://newsnetwork.mayoclinic.org/discussion/mayo-clinic-discovers-high-intensity-aerobic-training-can-reverse-aging-processes-in-adults/
- Ramadan, W., Xirouchaki, C. E., Razek, M. K. A., & Alim, M. A. (2022). High-Intensity Interval Training leads to reduced testosterone and increased estrogen levels in young women. Research Square. https://doi.org/10.21203/rs.3.rs-1639546/v1