The idea that high-intensity interval training (HIIT) — aka “burst training” — is one of the best ways to burn fat, tone muscle, and get fit fast is nothing new. Many of the world’s top fitness experts have been recommending it since at least the early 90′s. A significant amount of scientific research has proven its effectiveness in recent years, showing that it can help you achieve better fitness in less time than conventional cardio workouts.
Simply put, interval-based workouts involving short bursts of very intense exercise burn calories and body fat efficiently while dramatically improving cardiovascular health at the same time. Oh and it does all this without almost any of the negative consequences involved in typical “long, slow” aerobic exercise.
But there are many different forms of HIIT and, until recently, no one was 100% sure which was best. Now 2 new studies have provided even more evidence that burst training is one of the best fitness strategies out there while also showing how we should be doing it for maximum benefit!
One of the new studies, published in the Experimental Physiology journal, showed that the best workouts involve multiple short (60 seconds or less) bursts of high-intensity work (like sprinting) followed by short rest/recovery periods (like walking or slow jogging). HIIT-style workouts involving just one or two longer and/or higher intensity “bursts” don’t appear to provide nearly the same level of benefit.
“It would appear that there is something important, even essential, about the pulsative nature of on-off HIIT training if you wish to reap sustained physiological improvements.”
The second study, from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, showed that burst training should definitely not be done every day. Because of its “short and sweet” nature and quick benefits, many people get into the habit of doing HIIT workouts very frequently. But that can end up making interval training far less effective over time.
The Norwegian researchers found that people who do HIIT every day end up fatiguing their bodies to the point that endurance and overall fitness can actually decline. But people who stick to a 3-days-a-week HIIT workout routine experience fantastic fitness improvements because their bodies (especially their muscles) are able to recover and adapt to the “stress” of the intense workouts.
The Bottom Line: Interval-based burst training works incredibly well and is definitely one of the best ways to get fit fast. But give yourself plenty of recovery time between workouts — 2 or 3 HIIT sessions per week is a great option for most people. And be sure to do multiple rounds of intense exercise, interspersed with good rest periods, instead of just 1 or 2 long intervals!
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What do you think about this new information about the best form of the most effective workout strategy? Leave your comments below!
Beautiful image of a woman sprinting by Oscar Rethwill