Once upon a time, health gurus asked you take a 30-minute stroll in the park or simply do a few asanas here and there to stay fit. Then, Salman Khan and Sanjay Dutt came into the picture and changed the game by introducing weight training as the ultimate fitness mantra.
Just as we got bored of their senseless brand of cinema, we got bored of this mantra too.
Enter, the new weight-loss talisman: HIIT aka high-intensity interval training
“Also called high-intensity intermittent exercise or sprint interval training, HIIT is a cardiovascular exercise strategy which involves alternating short periods of intense exercise with less-intense activity during recovery periods, until you’re too exhausted to continue,” explains Dr Kruti Khemani, sports physiotherapist and founder, Continuum Sports Physiotherapy and Rehab, Mumbai.
Basically, you start with a less-intense warm up and once your muscles are ready to go, you kickstart HIIT by running, sprinting, jumping, or doing anything that gets your heart rate up. You then stop only a few seconds to catch some breath, only to get back to the exercises again.
But, what’s so great about HIIT?
That feeling of your heart pounding while trying to catch your breath after a crazy cardio routine is actually the reason behind HIIT’s effectiveness. When you perform anaerobic exercises like burpees, fast sprints, or jumps–your heart starts pumping blood at a faster speed and your body starts burning energy faster in order to support the high-intensity exercise.
As a result, not only does your heart become healthier, but your metabolism is also kick-started and remains in fat-burning mode—even when you’re not working out.
“HIIT can help you boost metabolism, burn fat, and maintain a healthy heart rate, blood pressure, and sugar level,” says Dr Khemani. “It also improves endurance and enhances your balance and strength,” adds Akshar.
How can you do it?
“Being an intense form of workout, HIIT should be restricted to two to three sessions per week with at least one day of rest in between. One session can last for about 10 to 20 minutes,” says Grand Master Akshar, renowned celebrity yoga trainer and lifestyle coach.
“For instance, start with 30 seconds of exercise, followed by 30 seconds of rest. If you’re at an advanced level, you might do 45 seconds of exercise followed by 15 seconds of rest,” he adds.
In fact, Dr Khemani suggests the following HIIT routines for beginners:
That said, should you really do HIIT?
“HIIT is suitable for most people at any level of fitness and should be done according to your capacity,” explains Akshar.
Additionally, Dr Khemani mentions that it is a great option for people who want to burn more calories or have hit a fitness plateau too. However, both the experts recommend that beginners should take it slow and increase the intensity of their HIIT workout gradually.
Wait, there’s a downside too!
Apart from an increased risk of injury, HIIT can sometimes make you lose muscle instead of fat—especially if it’s not complemented with a protein-rich diet.
You’ve got to be careful during HIIT
If you’re starting out, be sure to go low. Increase the intensity gradually and make sure to get a heads up from your doctor or physiotherapist before starting HIIT.
“The term high intensity means that it is going to put a lot of stress on all your systems, namely cardiovascular, musculoskeletal, and pulmonary. So, if you have any pre-existing issues or injuries, get those assessed and sorted before starting HIIT,” Dr Khemani warns.