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Getting back into exercise? HIIT may help

Did you call it quits on your exercise routine once COVID lockdowns became the norm? High-intensity interval training (HIIT) may help you ease back in.    

What’s HIIT? It’s a type of workout that involves short periods of intense exercise with short periods of rest in between. The workouts typically rely on cardio activities like sprints, hill climbs, burpees, and jump rope to send your heart rate sky-high.  

A classic example of this type of workout is known as the “Tabata protocol.” 

To do it, alternate 20 seconds of all-out effort with 10 seconds of rest for eight rounds. That’s only four minutes of actual work. But if you put in maximum intensity for those 20-second bursts, you won’t want to keep going by the time your four minutes are up.

The benefits

Past research shows that training this way can build fitness better than doing traditional steady-state cardio. 

HIIT may also help you lose weight, like the women in one study who lost as much as 7.3 pounds over 15 weeks by doing HIIT three times a week. 

The best part: A recent review in the Journal of Physiology suggests that doing HIIT workouts shorter than 20 minutes (including a warm-up and cooldown) may be enough to see benefits. Even though current exercise guidelines recommend at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise per week for a healthy lifestyle.

According to the review, the benefits of brief HIIT workouts may include improvements in:

  • Fitness
  • Blood sugar control
  • Blood pressure
  • Heart function

Plus, quick HIIT sessions tend to be safe and manageable for most adults in the long term.

“This research is especially important now as people are looking for new and exciting ways to engage in regular exercise, after a year of lower physical activity due to the pandemic,” said study co-author Angelo Sabag, M.D., in a press release.

A word of caution

While HIIT appears to be safe for many people, you should get the all-clear from your doctor before trying it. Especially if you’ve been diagnosed with a chronic condition and/or recovering from COVID.

Also, HIIT isn’t the type of workout you should do on a daily basis. Ease in with one or two sessions per week.

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