HIIT 101: Understanding the Basics of High-Intensity Interval Training

Live Well Diary Team
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High-intensity interval training (HIIT) has been popular in recent years and for a good reason.

But what exactly is it, and how does it work?

In this article, we’ll dive into the basics and explore its benefits and drawbacks.

What is HIIT?

HIIT is a type of exercise or workout that involves short periods of intense exercise followed by periods of rest or low-intensity exercise.

It aims to push your body to its limits during high-intensity intervals, which typically last between 20 seconds and 2 minutes. The rest periods allow your body to recover before the next high-intensity interval.

One of the defining features of HIIT is its focus on cardiovascular exercise. The workouts often involve running, biking, or rowing but can also incorporate bodyweight exercises like burpees, jumping jacks, and mountain climbers.

The rest periods in HIIT are as important as the high-intensity intervals, as they allow the body to recover before going to the next round of high-intensity exercise. By alternating between high-intensity and rest periods, HIIT workouts can provide challenging and effective training in a short amount of time.

Benefits of HIIT

Studies have shown that HIIT can burn more calories in a shorter time than traditional cardio workouts.[1] [2] A 30-minute high intensity workout can burn as many calories as a 60-minute jog on the treadmill.

Another benefit is that it improves cardiovascular health. HIIT has been shown to increase VO2 max, which measures the maximum amount of oxygen your body can use during exercise. A higher VO2 max is associated with better overall fitness and a lower risk of cardiovascular disease [3].

In addition to its many physical benefits, it can also be a time-efficient way to fit exercise into a busy schedule. Because the exercises are typically shorter than traditional cardio workouts, they can be an excellent option for people short on time.

HIIT - Bench Press

Drawbacks of HIIT

While it can be an effective workout style, it has drawbacks.

One of the main concerns of this exercise is the risk of injury. Because it involves pushing your body to its limits, it’s essential to use proper form and technique to avoid injury.

Additionally, people with certain health or medical conditions, such as heart disease, should consult a doctor before starting this particular exercise program.

HIIT involves pushing the body to its limits; it’s essential to use proper form and technique to avoid injury. This is especially important for beginners new to the exercises used in HIIT workouts.

Another potential drawback is its intensity. While high-intensity intervals can improve fitness, they can also be mentally and physically exhausting.

The intensity of this workout can be a turnoff, and people may prefer a more moderate workout style. Some people may find the high-intensity intervals too challenging or struggle to maintain proper form and technique as they fatigue. It’s vital to listen to your body and take rest days as needed to avoid burnout or injury.

HIIT - Dumbbell

How to Start HIIT

First and foremost, it’s essential to consult with a doctor before starting any exercise, workout plan or workout program, especially if you have any or a few underlying health conditions or concerns.

Once you have the go-ahead from your doctor, it’s essential to start slow and gradually increase intensity over time. This can help you build endurance and avoid injury. Additionally, it’s crucial to listen to your body and take rest days as needed.

HIIT can be challenging, and giving your body time to recover and avoid burnout is important.

You can start your HIIT journey safely and effectively by following these tips.


HIIT can be a highly effective workout for improving fitness, burning fat, and promoting overall health and wellness.

While it has some potential drawbacks, such as the risk of injury or mental and physical exhaustion, these can be mitigated by using proper form and technique, starting slow, and listening to your body.

The benefits of HIIT, including increased calorie burn, improved cardiovascular health, and time efficiency, make it a pretty amazing option for anyone looking to incorporate exercise into their busy lifestyle.

So if you’re up for a bit of a workout challenge and ready to take your fitness to the next level, try HIIT and see how it can benefit your health and wellness journey.


[1] Falcone, P.H., Tai, C.-Y., Carson, L.R., Joy, J.M., Mosman, M.M., McCann, T.R., Crona, K.P., Kim, M.P. and Moon, J.R. (2015). Caloric Expenditure of Aerobic, Resistance, or Combined High-Intensity Interval Training Using a Hydraulic Resistance System in Healthy Men. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 29(3), pp.779–785. doi:https://doi.org/10.1519/jsc.0000000000000661.

[2] Anderson, A. (2018). The Workout Debate: Experts Weigh in on Cardio VS. HIIT – PR News. [online] www.pennmedicine.org. Available at: https://www.pennmedicine.org/news/news-blog/2018/march/the-workout-debate-experts-weigh-in-on-cardio-vs-hiit.

[3] Forbes, S.C., Sletten, N., Durrer, C., Myette-Côté, É., Candow, D. and Little, J.P. (2017). Creatine Monohydrate Supplementation Does Not Augment Fitness, Performance, or Body Composition Adaptations in Response to Four Weeks of High-Intensity Interval Training in Young Females. International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism, 27(3), pp.285–292. doi:https://doi.org/10.1123/ijsnem.2016-0129.

Images Used

Photo by Li Sun: https://www.pexels.com/photo/photo-of-woman-sitting-and-raising-dumbbells-2475875/

‌Photo by Ivan Samkov: https://www.pexels.com/photo/person-holding-black-dumbbells-4164761/

Photo by Li Sun: https://www.pexels.com/photo/man-working-out-2294361/



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