Health Benefits of HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training)

Health Benefits of High Intensity Interval (HIIT) Training. Kintsugi Health Journal Post.

Health Benefits of High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)

Written by Jess Mullins

Do you ever feel like hours in a day simply evaporate? Or that, even if you have great intentions to do so, does finding time to slot in a daily workout or exercise seem unachievable?

If so, high-intensity interval training (HIIT) might be just the remedy for you. It is perfect for those days when there’s only a small window of time to sneak in a workout and best of all, it comes with all the great benefits of a long workout plus even a few more!

HIIT is a form of exercise that involves brief, yet intense, bursts of exercise followed by short intervals of rest or reduced-intensity activity. The idea is to push your heart rate up to about 80% of its maximum capacity and maintain it for a short period of time before reducing the activity intensity for a rest period, repeating the cycle multiple times. HIIT is an exercise method that maximizes health outcomes for the time you invest.

Who is HIIT for?

HIIT workouts can be done by anyone, anywhere, with or without the use of external equipment. Sprinting, jumping rope, bodyweight exercises or biking are just a few exercises that can be done as a HIIT workout.

What is your exercise of choice?

Whatever form of exercise you choose, there is usually a way to transform it into a HIIT workout. If you like running, switch up your morning jog and do a fifteen minute HIIT session, alternating between short sprints and intervals of slow jogging.

Unlike a steady jog, HIIT exercises are all about the increase and decrease of intensity. This is where the magic behind HIIT takes place.

What are the Health Benefits of HIIT?

HIIT has gained popularity as more and more research connects it to improved health outcomes. A few health benefits of HIIT include: increased aerobic fitness, reduced risk for cardiovascular disease, improved body composition (reduced body fat percentage), protection against age-related muscle loss, improved insulin sensitivity, enhanced cognitive function and more. HIIT is one powerful form of utilizing exercise for optimal health.

How does HIIT help us?
  1. Increase Metabolism
    HIIT has a gift that keeps on giving! The benefits of a HIIT workout continue even after the session has ended due to an effect called Excess Post Exercise Oxygen Consumption (EPOC), also known as the “after-burn effect”. EPOC refers to the increased consumption of oxygen required by the body post workout which is linked to an increase in metabolic rate. 
  2. Improve Cardiovascular Health
    HIIT workouts improve cardiovascular health by reducing blood pressure, promoting better vessel structure and lowering resting heart rate. One study suggests that HIIT goes above and beyond steady-rate exercise by also reducing arterial stiffness, a precursor for cardiovascular disease, in hypertensive subjects (Guilherme Veiga, et al). 
  3. Increase Insulin Sensitivity
    Studies show that HIIT is beneficial for improving insulin sensitivity. Insulin sensitivity plays an important role in maintaining overall health as well as reducing the risk of developing a chronic disease such as diabetes. When performing an intense activity, the relaxation and contraction of the muscle involved triggers glucose carriers (GLUT4 transmitters) to uptake glucose from the bloodstream, even with low levels of insulin present.

    One study induced insulin resistance via sleep deprivation in the subjects and HIIT training proved to be an effective strategy for alleviating the symptoms and increasing insulin sensitivity (Jorge F T et a). 

  4. Brain Health
    Exercise is not just great for physical health, it’s great for mental health too! Here are a few ways HIIT boost brain health:
        • Elevates a protein (BDNF) in the brain that keeps brain cells “happy and healthy”.
        • Reduces age related cognitive problems- BDNF aids in neuroplasticity, the brain’s ability to change and adapt. Neuroplasticity is important for memory, focus and cognition.
        • Increases Endorphin release: Exercise intensity affects the level of endorphins that are released in the brain during exercise. In one study done at the University of Turku, results showed an increased amount of endorphins released during HIIT compared to steady-rate exercise.

So should you start adding HIIT into the mix?

There are so many good reasons to incorporate HIIT into your exercise routine! Exercise is not just about fitting in the summer swimsuit, it’s about feeling good in it too.

From the cogs ticking in your brain, to the muscles that allow us to run, jump and even eat, to the heart that keeps every organ running smoothly, exercise is an essential component in caring for our holistic being.

HIIT combines cardio with resistance training which packs a punch in assisting you reach your fitness and overall health goals. All you need is a few minutes and the willingness to give it a go.

Resources

Guimarães, Guilherme Veiga et al. “Effects of continuous vs. interval exercise training on blood pressure and arterial stiffness in treated hypertension.” Hypertension research: official journal of the Japanese Society of Hypertension vol. 33,6 (2010): 627-32. doi:10.1038/hr.2010.42

De Souza, Jorge F T et al. “High-Intensity Interval Training Attenuates Insulin Resistance Induced by Sleep Deprivation in Healthy Males.” Frontiers in physiology vol. 8 992. 7 Dec. 2017, doi:10.3389/fphys.2017.00992

Jiménez-Maldonado, Alberto et al. “The Impact of High-Intensity Interval Training on Brain Derived Neurotrophic Factor in Brain: A Mini-Review.” Frontiers in neuroscience vol. 12 839. 14 Nov. 2018, doi:10.3389/fnins.2018.00839

University of Turku. “HIIT releases endorphins in the brain.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 24 August 2017. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/08/170824101759.htm>.

Nichols, Dr Miles. “Benefits of High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT).” Medicine With Heart, 8 July 2021, medicinewithheart.com/blog/benefits-of-high-intensity-interval-training-hiit/.

Shepherd SO, Wilson OJ, Taylor AS, Thøgersen-Ntoumani C, Adlan AM, Wagenmakers AJM, et al. (2015) Low-Volume High-Intensity Interval Training in a Gym Setting Improves Cardio-Metabolic and Psychological Health. PLoS ONE 10(9): e0139056. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0139056

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