Written by Brittany von Tunzelmann, CNN
What is HIIT? That’s an actual term, to be clear, but it’s being used in this story as a metaphor. It also refers to short bursts of intense exercise (much like interval training) accompanied by sustained relaxation, with HIIT sometimes including cycles between the two.
So, why do we refer to it this way? A lot of people think it’s because “softer” workouts are easier on the body, and HIIT trains the body similarly. Technically, HIIT workouts could be thought of as endurance workouts, but simply focusing on the intensity of your workout provides a convenient alternative to a full-blown endurance exercise that’s otherwise overwhelming.
HIIT is also popular because this kind of exercise is structured in a way that gives much the same sweat-inducing experience as outdoor, expensive and “elite” types of training. Most training and fitness programs simply use a variety of “classic” exercises to provide the same results — which is also why many stay away from them.
Where do you find this kind of training? Most athletes and top level athletes will know of competitive competitions using these short bursts of high intensity workouts to help achieve high levels of performance, but HIIT training is also used in a range of sports, and the benefits are not confined to athletes, nor are they related to endurance.
Harvard researchers found that this kind of training could decrease your risk of heart disease (high blood pressure), stroke, type 2 diabetes and breast cancer . However, this effect is “dose dependent,” meaning it works for some, but not for others. This means that, while you may get a little heart benefit from a HIIT workout, a regular jog might still give you a measurable reduction in risk.
What should I do instead? HIIT training is a means of building strength and endurance, not an end in itself. Regardless of whether or not you are engaged in this type of fitness activity, most health experts recommend a 60-minute physical activity routine for everyone.
As such, the most important thing to know about this HIIT workout is that “HIIT” does not stand for anything. HIIT is simply an acronym that can be used to describe a whole range of exercises, but there is no one “right” or “wrong” way to do them.