If you’ve ever used the “interval training” setting on a treadmill or elliptical machine, you’re probably familiar with the concept—alternating short bursts of intense activity with periods of less-intense activity, or “active recovery.” Now fitness experts have modified that concept for maximum fitness and weight loss results. It’s called high-intensity interval training (HIIT), and it just may be the key to stepping around potential weight loss plateaus.
What makes HIIT workouts intense?
So how does a workout qualify as “high-intensity?” The target heart rate of a typical HIIT workout should be about 80% of your maximum heart rate. To give you an idea, exercising at 80% of your maximum heart rate should mean that holding a conversation requires a lot of effort. Of course, the amount of exercise needed to raise the heart rate to this level will be different for everyone. If you’re new to regular exercise, HIIT probably isn’t for you. But if you’re already exercising on a regular basis (at least three times per week) or already doing interval training, a HIIT workout is a great way to take your fitness results to the next level.
How do I determine my Maximum Heart Rate (MHR)?
The easiest way to determine whether or not you’re exercising at peak levels is to purchase a heart rate monitor—it does all the maths for you! But it’s also pretty easy to do this yourself. To calculate your maximum heart rate, simply subtract your age from 220. For example, if you’re 40 years old, your MHR is 180. To find your target heart rate for HIIT (80% of MHR), simply multiply your MHR by 0.80. 80% of 180 = 144. And of course, your heart rate is measured by beats per minute. So if you don’t have a heart rate monitor, simply take your pulse the old-fashioned way during an active recovery segment of your workout.
Do I need special equipment?
Like most interval training workouts, HIIT workouts can be done almost anywhere, using whatever kind of cardio training equipment you already use. It’s all about the activity ratio—one minute of intensity to three minutes of recovery. This might mean sprinting on your local oval for one minute, followed by three minutes of brisk walking… one minute of flat-out cycling on your gym’s exercise bike to three minutes of relaxed pedalling… one minute of running up the stairs to three minutes of walking down. As long as you’re reaching your target heart rate, you’re doing HIIT!
How can HIIT boost my results?
HIIT can help you increase BOTH your fitness level and weight loss results. By alternately working your body to near its maximum potential and giving it ample time to recover, you’re training it to produce and use energy more efficiently—a fancy way of saying you’ll burn more energy. HIIT will help you to decrease fat mass and increase your lean muscle mass, which will help you to burn more energy even when you’re not working out!