Body & Soul: The HIIT Effect

Less gym time + more effort = amazing results

High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) combines weight-resistance exercises with a cardio workout—raising your heart rate—followed by brief recovery sessions.

Roberto Gonzalez

Although it has been around for a while, HIIT (High-Intensity Interval Training) is still one of the most talked about fads on the fitness circuit—and for good reason. People of all ages and activity levels are incorporating HIIT into their workout regimens and seeing impressive results in how they look and feel.   

HIIT works by mixing short bursts of intense exercise, which can include everything from sprints to lifting weights or ropes to abdominal crunches, with brief, regulated recovery periods. The idea is to push yourself during those few minutes of exercise before moving on to the next one. During the workout, the high-intensity intervals max out the lung volume, giving the body more oxygenation and stamina. Some experts believe this type of training fights against the typical signs of aging.

The Mayo Clinic has even incorporated HIIT into its sports medicine programs. By tailoring each program to a person’s diagnosis and abilities, the clinic says HIIT provides significant benefits, especially for those patients struggling with heart disease and Type 2 diabetes. According to the clinic, HIIT causes physiological changes with results that are similar to endurance training by activating adenosine monophosphate kinase (AMPK), enzymes that promote skeletal muscle functions and the metabolism, while regulating fat storage.

“HIIT is like a steroid shot in the system, which makes those people who are 50 and over feel 30 again,” says Bill Bennett of Bill Bennett Boot Camps in Orlando.

A person’s fitness level, age and health conditions determine their ideal interval times. Beginners may need from 45 seconds to a full minute of recovery time, while those who are more advanced can recover in just 15 seconds. Bennett’s tip: If you can count to 10 after your HIIT segment without gasping for air, you didn’t do it correctly. In other words, you can push yourself further to maximize the benefits of each exercise.

To assess the correct interval times for your body, Bennett recommends consulting with a trainer who understands the science behind the workout.

“When this was introduced to me, it was hard to wrap my head around it. Coming from over 20 years of aerobic teaching and nursing, we were taught long-duration cardio,” says Bennett, who spent 12 years as an ER nurse. “So at first, I didn’t believe it. Then we took 12 clients who had hit a plateau and put them in a beta program. They all were ‘shredded’ in six weeks because not only is [the HIIT program] tailored to each client, [the results] evolve quickly.”

Tara Pioli, one of Bennett’s clients, appreciates the convenience of HIIT. “I started in April 2017 and have not stopped. I can only commit to about three days a week, but I have lost up to 40 pounds and toned up significantly. My results were from a combination of HIIT and eating clean.”

Versatility is also a positive factor of the HIIT workout since it incorporates a rotating mix of exercises that target different areas of the body. “There is an abundance of variations so your workouts will never get boring or repetitive,” Bennett says.

For Pioli, she loves that she can do HIIT anywhere. “You don’t need any equipment,” she says. “I used to run on a treadmill and work out on the elliptical for hours. Never have I received these results.”

For a workout that takes less time, delivers better results, and potentially slows the aging process, this is one fitness trend that is likely to become a habit.

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