A German documentary film crew once visited the production offices occupied by Kirk Douglas on the MGM studio lot. Douglas, a former gymnast, had just returned from his lunchtime workout. The interviewer asked Kirk Douglas how long he had worked out. “Oh, about a half-hour,” Douglas said. “That doesn’t sound like much,” commented the interviewer.

“It is if you work out with me,” Douglas replied.

Today, some of the secrets of enduring athletes have been collected and codified in HIIT – High-Intensity Interval Training. A typical HIIT workout lasts from 10 to 30 minutes of alternating intense exercise with low-intensity recovery periods. It is becoming known as the most time-effective way to exercise, and so it is finding a place in the lives of people with busy careers, family commitments, or just a lot of other interesting options for spending their time.

Inside the HIIT Workout

Each HIIT session is composed of “rounds” or “reps” that consist of a high- and a low-intensity version of a particular exercise. Each workout typically includes four to six such rounds. One round, for example might begin with 30 seconds of stationary bike at the highest resistance setting, pedaled as fast as possible, followed by minutes of slow pedaling against light resistance while breathing deeply.

Sprinting and squat-jumps are a few more examples of HIIT rounds, most of which use body weight for resistance. Ramping up your HIIT workout consists not primarily of making the whole workout longer, but rather by varying how long you extend the intensive phases and how much you reduce the recovery phases. Properly done, the HIIT workout can yield the health benefits of other exercise forms in a shorter time.

The List of Benefits is Long

Because of the intensity reached in the HIIT workout, the metabolism stays high for hours after the exercise. As a result, lower body fat, heart rate, and blood pressure are often achieved with less investment of time than in other forms of exercise.

With HIIT, you can burn a lot of calories in a short time, and you continue that process even after your workout, because of the impressive ability of HIIT to keep that metabolic rate elevated. As a result, body fat is reduced. In one study, people who performed three 20-minute HIIT workouts per week lost 4.4 pounds in 12 weeks with no change in diet. Of greater interest is that they saw a 17% reduction in belly fat, the kind that surrounds internal organs and promotes disease.

Oxygen consumption gets more efficient in people who work out with HIIT, a benefit formerly associated with longer-duration exercise. A study demonstrated that 60 minutes a week of HIIT improved oxygen consumption as much as 120 minutes of traditional exercise.

Considering the intensity that is called for with HIIT, wouldn’t it make sense to check your fitness starting point with us at Global Family Medicine? Just call us at 843.815.6468 to get started.