During exercise, you burn calories according to the type of exercise you do, the intensity and total duration. The good news about exercise is you still burn extra calories even after, though not as much. But, over time when you become consistent, the after-burn effect of exercise will help you manage your weight effectively as compared to dieting alone.
That effect has been of interest to exercisers trying to lose weight, with various exercise methods to effectively burn calories before and even after now available, just like the high-intensity interval training (HIIT). It’s a form of cardiovascular exercise that alternates the periods of short intense anaerobic exercise with moderate or less intense recovery periods.
Due to the training intensity of HIIT, you still need to prioritize safety above all to ensure program effectiveness and long-term exercise participation.
Before engaging yourself to any type of exercise, consult a physician, especially if you have existing conditions, became sedentary for a long time and above 40 years old. Then consult with a fitness expert regarding the best exercise program for you. Your exercise program should include exercise type, frequency, intensity and duration, and this should match your current fitness goals, age, gender, fitness level and health status.
Even if you have been doing formal exercise programs for some time now and are fit enough to try a more intense exercise routine, it is still best to consult with health and fitness professionals to avoid injuries, exercise burnout and physical stress.
Several studies proving the effectiveness of HIIT, as compared to continuous endurance training, have caught the attention of exercisers who have been trying to improve their sports or fitness performance and weight management efforts.
Recent research shows that doing HIIT is more effective than traditional long-duration trainings when it comes to cardiovascular and skeletal muscle adaptations (for example, to be able to bike or run longer at a greater intensity) because you can accomplish these cardiovascular gains in lesser time.
Another interesting effect of HIIT is the excess post-exercise oxygen consumption or the after-burn effect. Studies have proven the effect of high-intensity exercises when it comes to burning more calories even after an exercise session, compared to a lower or moderate intensity workout with the same duration.
An additional benefit of HIIT is preventing cardiovascular diseases. A study published in the American Journal of Human Biology last year shows that brief high-intensity cardiovascular training is as beneficial as the traditional endurance training for preventing cardiovascular disease in adolescents. During this seven-week study, the moderate intensity group completed a total of 420 minutes of exercise and the high intensity group completed a total of 63 minutes.
So when and how can you incorporate HIIT into your regular fitness routine so you can get better and faster results? What are the conditions you need to consider to make this type of training work? Do you really need to do HIIT to lose weight and to improve your performance?
HIIT can always be incorporated into your existing fitness routine, and you don’t need to change your exercise program completely. Studies show that doing this program three times a week, on nonconsecutive days, will produce significant effects. But for long-term exercise compliance, once a week is already beneficial, especially if you combine this program with your traditional two to three times a week aerobic workout.
A good example is a runner’s program: Once a week of run interval session (HIIT), once a week of easy run and once a week of long slow run. Of course, at least twice a week of strength and core training should always be included.
Always start with at least five to 10 minutes of warm-up and the same amount of time for cool-down.
According to Len Kravitz, author of the article “HIIT vs Continuous Endurance Training: Battle Of The Aerobic Titans,” published in the February 2012 issue of IDEA Fitness Journal, if someone has been sedentary for months, it would be better to start a continuous, low-intensity aerobic exercise and progress only to HIIT when he can already sustain a run for 30 consecutive minutes at a moderate intensity.
Work and rest intervals can vary based on the program goals and fitness level. Work periods usually vary between five seconds to eight minutes, and intensity is higher than 80 percent of the maximum heart rate (MHR). MHR is 220 minus your age. The usual ratio of work to rest for HIIT program is usually one minute of work to every two to three minutes of rest. And when we talk about rest, MHR should be 50-70 percent. But you can always vary the ratio based on your fitness level (can be 1:1 or 2:1).
Simple ways to increase calorie burn
You don’t really need to follow exactly the HIIT training protocols especially if you don’t have a coach, are unsure about your fitness level and don’t have enough time to implement a formal exercise program while monitoring your heart rate. You can still maximize your calorie burn before and after your chosen physical activities.
Running and walking (1:1)—Run as fast as you can for two minutes, then walk for two minutes and repeat the cycle four times.
Gym workout (2:1)—Use any cardio machine (elliptical, treadmill or rower) for one minute at a high intensity (90-percent MHR), slow down for 30 seconds and repeat the cycle 10 times.
Home workout (1:2)—Perform one minute of skipping rope or jumping jacks or any high-intensity cardio routine, then perform a low to moderate intensity routine for two minutes, like walking around the house or doing a dance routine.