Active Seniors

The Benefits and Nuances of HIIT

High intensity interval training – you may have heard of this term, as it certainly has been taking the fitness world by storm recently! It is a fantastic exercise modality due to its time efficient nature as well as the great effect it has on your exercise response.


What is it?

High intensity interval training (HIIT) involves bouts of hard work peppered with periods of recovery. It is a little more challenging than steady exercise e.g. walking around a flat oval for 30 minutes.


A very common HIIT workout could be climbing a set of stairs for 20 seconds, following by 40 seconds walking on flat ground for recovery. This maximal intensity exercise encourages the body to use anaerobic (without oxygen) methods of glucose uptake, meaning you get energy quickly. You would then use the recovery period to get oxygen back into your muscles and blood stream, ready to go again!


What are the benefits of HIIT?

HIIT comes with countless benefits! It has both a short- and long-term effect on your blood pressure, as it increases the flexibility and elasticity of the arteries. Additionally, your energy expenditure is larger during the session, and your body continues to recover long after the exercise session is over! HIIT is a much more demanding form of exercise, so your body has to use a lot more energy to recover. Where does this energy come from? That’s right, glucose and body fat.


Studies have found that HIIT can preserve lean muscle mass whilst consuming more fat for energy. Muscle mass is something we want to preserve as we get older for functional strength and balance, so preserving and building it is ideal!


An effective HIIT program is also great for those who are time-crunched. Since you are exercising at almost maximal capacity, you would achieve similar physiological benefits within 10-20 minutes as opposed to a steady state workout that requires 30+ minutes.


Where do I start with HIIT?

For those who have not exercised before, it is always recommended to build your exercise tolerance first for at least a 30-minute workout. This should involve a combination of aerobic and strength training for different muscle groups. A great way to then incorporate HIIT into your program is to aim for 10 out of 30 minutes at an increased effort to start achieving the benefits. Remember, you can make the intervals as short as you would like before challenging yourself!


TIP: Start with a brisk walk for 10-15 seconds and allow a slower walk for 45-50 seconds as recovery. Continue this for 3-5 minute intervals before progressing the length and intensity of the maximal capacity component.


HIIT is most effective if you are truly pushing your limits during the high intensity section. Eventually, you want to build up to a 2:1 work to rest ratio. This would mean 40 seconds of high intensity exercise to 20 seconds of recovery. Sounds tough! But remember, a gradual increase is crucial to building your tolerance and strength.


The form of exercise you undertake should be goal-specific. Whilst highly beneficial, there is not a lot of use doing shorter intervals of high intensity training if you are training for a long bush walk. So don’t forget to keep in mind what your goals are for your exercise and train appropriately!

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