Lately HIIT (high intensity interval training) has been all the rage in the fitness world, and this is one workout that lives up to its hype! In fact, you may be able to get more benefits out of 15 minutes of HIIT than you would out of an hour of traditional cardio!

Basically, HIIT involves short bursts of super-intense exercise, which can be as short as 2o seconds or as long as five minutes. These bursts are interspersed with rest periods of much lighter exercise.

For example, you might run on the treadmill during your burst and walk during your rest. This allows you to do more intense exercise than you could sustain if you were working out for longer, and thus to burn more calories in a shorter amount of time.

HIIT isn't, however, a shortcut. To get the most out of HIIT, you need to be pushing yourself to the absolute max during your bursts. Experts recommend reaching about an 8 or 9 on the perceived exertion scale, a level jokingly described in the previous link as one at which you feel like you are "probably going to die."

However, the rewards of HIIT may be great enough to motivate you into getting close to your limits. HIIT is amazing for heart health since it tends to cause a larger spike in heart rate than traditional cardio does, and has been associated with reduced blood pressure and insulin resistance in those with hypertension or prediabetes.

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Having to adapt and rapidly switch between two very different states of rest and recovery can also improve your body's ability to use oxygen, ultimately increasing your strength and endurance and allowing you to work out harder and longer when you do return to more conventional cardio, which is why some endurance athletes incorporate HIIT into their pre-race training.

Additionally, HIIT has been shown to build or preserve your muscle more effectively than traditional cardio exercises, which tend to break it down (especially if you're eating at a substantial caloric deficit).

HIIT also uniquely facilitates the release of human growth hormone, which can slow the aging process as well as encourage muscle growth. A HIIT routine that involves body-weight could even give you the heart-rate spiking benefits of cardio and the toning benefits of strength training at the same time!

The super-intense bursts of HIIT can also boost your metabolism more than traditional exercise might, creating a greater "afterburn" effect after your workout and allowing you to burn more fat. HIIT also has been show to have beneficial effects on waist circumference, a measurement that has been associated with the risk for many weight-related illnesses.

A typical HIIT session includes about 20-45 minutes of working and resting, but much shorter HIIT workouts exist if you're really pressed for time. You should aim for at least 4-6 bursts per workout; some popular HIIT routines involve four minute workout periods and three minute recovery periods, or ten one minute sessions with ten one minute rests. Bursts that are at least three minutes long will probably offer you the greatest health and fat-burning benefits.If you experiment with HIIT at an exercise class or with a trainer, they will be able to time and guide your workout, but you certainly don't need one to get going! Experts suggest that a 1:2 ratio of work to rest (2 minute burst and 4 minute recovery) is a good guideline for beginners, or you can easily go looking for examples of HIIT routines online or even in an app.

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Since the focus is on intensity rather than activity, HIIT can be adapted to almost any form of exercise, from kettlebells to cycling to just running up and down your stairs at home! There are HIIT routines out there that you can complete using only a chair and a yoga mat, and some that require no equipment at all!

Two days of HIIT a week should be enough for beginners, perhaps interspersed with other workout days of strength training or more moderate cardio. You can up it to three days once you're more experienced, but you should still to try to keep a full rest day in between your sessions to avoid overtraining. You can also look into specialized versions of HIIT like Tabata.

Of course, as with all other exercise plans, even the amazing calorie-burning benefits of HIIT won't be able to make up for a bad diet as far as your weight loss progress. To optimize your nutrition for maximum fitness, save your highest carbohydrate foods for before a session and eat plenty of protein afterwards to ensure proper recovery.

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