By Deborah Jeanne Sergeant
You may love high-intensity interval training for its quick calorie blast. However, HIIT also provides benefits to your heart.
“They are finding HIIT can have better results for cardiorespiratory health as opposed to moderate intensity cardiovascular exercise,” said Jeremy Tiermini, a certified athletic trainer and professor in Health Sciences and Human Performance at Finger Lakes Community College in Canandaigua. Tiermini earned a Master of Sports Science Sports Medicine at the United States Sports Academy.
Of course, someone who’s sedentary should not engage in HIIT, as it’s pretty intense. HIIT involves working as hard as possible for 15 seconds at a physical movement, such as jumping jacks, riding a stationary bike or running on a treadmill and then taking a break for 10 seconds before engaging in a different activity. The times vary, depending upon the HIIT program. Some involve working hard for 30 seconds and rest for 30. The whole session could be as short as 15 to 20 minutes.
“You can actually burn a lot of calories in a short amount of time, around 25% more than other forms of exercise,” Tiermini said. “If you’re burning calories, you’re changing your metabolism and the energy system your body uses fuel and you’ll get cardiovascular benefits. You’ll lose body fat which helps cardiovascular health and improve muscular skeletal health.”
Jean Sica, certified tai chi instructor and personal trainer and owner of Kokoro Fitness in Rochester, works with many women who want to improve their health. She views HIIT as a means to help them improve their cardiovascular health.
“Older women’s reduced estrogen seems to work against building muscle,” Sica said. “Estrogen reduction in females equates in a reduction in human growth hormone, HGH. This adds to the high cortisol levels. A lot of times older women work really hard running, boot camps and don’t seem to get anywhere. They’re causing more stress on their bodies and that reduces HGH. HIIT, where you work really hard and rest, actually builds up HGH much better in women than men. It absolutely improves cardiovascular health.”
HIIT is definitely a hit for time-crunched people who cannot cram in hour-long workouts into their schedules.
“It’s important to think about your own situation when deciding whether to do HIIT or steady state cardiovascular exercise,” said Kerri Howell, certified personal trainer, nutrition coach and owner of The Hourglass Mom in the Rochester area. “HIIT can be a big bang for your body’s buck, but it could come at the risk of injury. And if all you do are high-intensity workouts, you are only working on one component of cardiovascular conditioning, ignoring endurance.”
She added that HIIT may lead to burnout. She advises mixing up fitness with a combination of low-intensity, mid-intensity and high-intensity workouts throughout the week as time permits.
Austyn Affronti, president of Affronti Fitness in Rochester, also said that combining HIIT with other exercise routines provides the most benefit.
“HIIT should be interchangeable with your workout but not every day,” he said.
He added that in addition to cardiovascular benefits, the biggest plus of HIIT is its long-term calorie burn.
“What it does is create a massive demand for oxygen for cells,” he said. “It’s the post-exercise oxygen effect. For the next eight to nine hours, your cells are demanding extra oxygen so you’re burning calories long after the workout instead of during the workout.”
HIIT also doesn’t burn muscle as long bouts of cardio tends to do, so “for muscle retention, it’s better,” Affronti said.