A 19-Minute HIIT Workout for Beginners (The New York Times)

Posted: Mar 15, 2023 in In the News

This article originally appeared in The New York Times on March 15, 2023.


A 19-Minute HIIT Workout for Beginners

By Amanda Loudin

Workout trends come and go, but when it comes to the biggest bang for your buck, high intensity interval training, or HIIT, has staying power.

HIIT’s specific origins are uncertain; some say it dates back to at least the early 1900s and Finnish Olympic runners who would use alternating short bursts of intensity with brief bouts of recovery to bolster their overall speed. Today, it remains one of the “Top 20 Worldwide Fitness Trends” according to the American College of Sports Medicine.

But ask 10 people what a HIIT workout is, and odds are, you’ll get 10 different answers. The fitness industry has created a wide variety of iterations that aren’t actually HIIT.

A true HIIT session will incorporate several rounds of short high-intensity cardiovascular bursts — usually not more than 20 seconds — followed by brief periods of rest. This allows you to complete a workout that delivers substantial fitness results in just 30 minutes or so. It usually requires little to no equipment, and you can pick your preferred method of cardio.

To achieve true high intensity, however, you have to work hard. You must get your heart rate above 80 percent of your absolute maximum before letting it barely recover, and then doing it all over again. “Make your intensity hard enough that you can’t hold a conversation, then recover and begin again,” said Danyele Wilson, a trainer and coach for the fitness app EvolveYou.

“That’s key, and what sets HIIT apart from other workouts,” said Ms. Wilson. “Holding a plank for a minute isn’t going to get your heart rate there, for instance. You need to feel like you couldn’t go all out with this movement for more than eight to 10 seconds at a time.”

When added to a regimen of standard cardio exercise and strength training, HIIT can boost your overall fitness, improve health metrics, increase your calorie burn rate and lead to better performance in competitive sports. Here’s how to reap those benefits.

The chief argument for a HIIT workout is its potential to produce cardiovascular fitness gains in a short amount of time.

A 2019 review of research studying the health benefits of HIIT found that it was a more efficient approach to aerobic training, compared to steady-state cardio exercise — which keeps your heart rate in the same general range for an extended period. A small 2020 study of sedentary men between the ages of 43 and 73 found that performing HIIT over just six weeks significantly decreased their high blood pressure.

In addition to improving heart health, many people choose HIIT as a means to lose weight, Cedric Bryant, president and chief science officer of the American Council on Exercise, said. “You’re getting a higher average calorie burn from HIIT than a steady-state session for the same amount of time.”


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