HIIT: What It Is & Why It's So Popular

HIIT: What It Is & Why It's So Popular
Everyone talks about it and everyone’s doing it - High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT). It has become so popular over the years and is a staple in most fitness classes. But do we truly know what HIIT means?

Rest assured, we talk about it all - so let’s dive in and take a closer look!

What is HIIT?

High-intensity interval training (HIIT) involves alternating short bursts of intense exercise with less-intense recovery periods. It has been stated that this type of training provides similar, and in some instances greater, health benefits as traditional endurance training.

The benefits of a HIIT workout:

  • Reduces subcutaneous fat, especially abdominal fat
  • Reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease
  • Decreases blood pressure
  • Improves metabolic health - helps with insulin sensitivity especially those at risk for developing diabetes
  • Improves aerobic fitness - Increases VO2max

Why is HIIT training so popular?

Studies suggest that HIIT workouts tend to burn more calories more than steady-state exercises because you burn calories both during and long after your HIIT workout has completed.

Roughly 2 hours post exercise, the body is restoring itself to pre-exercise levels, and requires energy to do so. Because of the rigorous nature of HIIT workouts, the post exercise energy expenditure required is greater, and you burn more calories doing so!

This is the main reason that HIIT based workouts have become so popular in recent times. They are quick and effective workouts for weight loss and fitness, if done correctly.

I know what you are thinking. . .  but before you put your workout clothes on and start HIITing it, let’s figure out how to properly do a HIIT workout.

How do you develop a HIIT program?

When trying to develop a HIIT program, it’s important to consider your age, what your baseline fitness is like and your training experience. If this is your first time doing a HIIT workout, you want to make sure you are not over exerting yourself. With this in mind, you should consider the duration, intensity and frequency of the work intervals and the length of the recovery intervals.

Speaking in general terms:

Intensity: should range from greater than 80% of your estimated maximal heart rate. If you use the talk test as your guide, it would be difficult to carry a conversation while exercising. The intensity of the recovery period should be 40-50% of your maximal heart rate. This period will help you recover and prepare for your next work interval.

Duration: Each HIIT workout varies in duration and can be tailored to fit your needs. I have listed a few of the different types of HIIT approaches below. It's important to note that this list is not exhaustive, but highlights some of the more popular ones.

Ratio 1:1:
This approach might be 1-minute of high intensity workout followed by a 1-minute low intensity recovery period. The workout continues with the alternating work and relief periods totaling 20 to 60 minutes.

Windate Model:
This approach involves 30 seconds of cycling at full-out effort, followed by 4 minutes of recovery. You can repeat this 4-6 times per session.

Scandinavia Model:
This approach is developed for cardiac patients and involves 4 minutes of somewhat below maximal heart rate intensity, followed by 4 minutes of an easy recovery period.

Examples of aerobic exercises to include in a HIIT workout:

  • Running
  • Cycling
  • Skipping rope
  • Stair master
  • Rowing
  • Swimming

What are the safety concerns with HIIT training?

Due to the vigorous nature of a HIIT program, individuals who are moderate-to-high risk and individuals who live a sedentary lifestyle need to be cautious when performing HIIT. If you have any concerns prior to beginning HIIT training, you should contact your health care practitioner.

One of the keys to safe participation of HIIT training is for all people to modify the intensity of the work interval to a preferred challenging level. Safety should always be primary priority! Set small goals and build on them.

Now who's ready to give HIIT a try!?


Kilpatrick, M. W., Jung, M. E., & Little, J. P. (2014). High-Intensity Interval Training. ACSMʼs Health & Fitness Journal, 18(5), 11–16. doi: 10.1249/fit.0000000000000067

Laursen, P. B., & Jenkins, D. G. (2002). The Scientific Basis for High-Intensity Interval Training. Sports Medicine, 32(1), 53–73. doi: 10.2165/00007256-200232010-00003

Milanović, Z., Sporiš, G., & Weston, M. (2015). Effectiveness of High-Intensity Interval Training (HIT) and Continuous Endurance Training for VO2max Improvements: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Controlled Trials. Sports Medicine, 45(10), 1469–1481. doi: 10.1007/s40279-015-0365-0

Shiraev, T. (2012). Benefits of high intensity interval training. Evidence Based Exercise Clinical Benefits of High Intensity Interval Training, 41(12). Retrieved from https://www.racgp.org.au/download/Documents/AFP/2012/December/201212shiraev.pdf

Read more

Resistance Band Guide: Which One is Right for You?

Resistance Band Guide: Which One is Right for You?

The Stronger The Booty, The Better?

The Stronger The Booty, The Better?

Injury Management

Injury Management