How HIIT workouts can improve your health

by Sarah Glader on Sunday 09 April 2023

4 min read

Looking for a way to get your cardio in without the traditional cardio workout? One word, HIIT (or high intensity interval training). Mix up your workout with both weights and cardio using intense, but short intervals for a sweat-inducing workout that will transform your body and improve your overall health. Fall in love with this training method to take whatever your exercise of choice may be to the next level.

What is high intensity interval training (HIIT)?

When we look at the foundation of what makes up a HIIT workout, it is the alternation between work and rest intervals. You may have heard of the common 40 seconds on (work), 20 seconds off (rest). 1 minute rounds. During the 'work' interval, this is where you will aim for your maximum effort. Ideally, we want to get the heart rate somewhere between 80-90% of your max heart rate.

How do you find your max heart rate? You subtract your age from 220 = your max heart rate! This is hard to maintain for a long time, which is why the high intensity level is limited to roughly 20-40 seconds, depending on the workout or exercise.

What are the benefits of HIIT?

I am going to give my top three best benefits of HIIT and by the end of the article, you'll have a greater understanding of why it can be good to incorporate this form of exercise into your week, one way or another.

Improve heart health

Do you know what's super cool? Your heart is made up of muscle tissue just like the rest of your body. This means that with the right stimulus your heart has the ability to get stronger. A strong heart equals low blood pressure, an increase in good cholesterol and improved circulation of blood. Higher circulation of blood means quicker healing of your body, internally and externally. We love a happy heart.

Improve VO2 Max

You've probably heard this buzz word, or you may have seen it on your fitness tracker/app. Let’s talk about it.

VO2 Max is the measurement of your oxygen consumption during intense workouts. This measurement talks to your overall cardiovascular and metabolic health (the absence of the risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes and stroke). The more oxygen you can take in during an intense workout, the better.

HIIT workouts are a great way to help increase your VO2 Max due to the sheer fact that the workouts are intense and causes the body to adapt by consuming more oxygen.

Quicker workouts

HIIT is an efficient way to exercise and may help you burn more calories than you would with any other from of exercise for the same period of time. It can even achieve the same health benefits in a short duration, and also includes rest! Can it get any better?

This is a great option for increasing your endurance and strength for those who are limited for time to exercise.

It’s worth noting that while cardio exercise is the most efficient way to burn calories, your caloric intake and overall nutrition plays a huge factor in overall fat loss and body composition, if this is your goal.

Why is it important to add HIIT into your fitness regime?

I like to do a mix of HIIT workouts, walking my dog, and hiking, all in addition to my barbell training.

But here’s the thing... I burn more calories in less time when I do a HIIT program than when I walk on a treadmill for 30 minutes. If I compare my fitness tracker to an effort while I am walking to an effort when I track my HIIT workout, my HIIT workout overtakes the calories burned in the 30min walk!

There are a variety of benefits of HIIT, but overall, it’s important to realise that it is a form of cardiovascular exercise. And if there is any type of cardiovascular training that you enjoy (and helps you meet the recommended 150 minutes of activity per week) then that is the exercise you should participate in. Overall HIIT can be fun, it can save time, and it is highly adaptable for a variety of skill levels.

Personal Trainer tips on how to get started with HIIT workouts

I can see how a HIIT class can seem intimidating when you watch it from afar, either in person or on social media. Everyone is moving so fast and seems to know what they are doing. It can often feel intimidating, you don't know where to start, or you're unsure if you are 'fit enough'.

I want you to know that HIIT is scalable to any skill level, and everyone is welcome, that is the best part of HIIT! You can do it anywhere, at any time and you can even get a great HIIT workout without any weights and fancy machines. My best tip is to talk to a coach beforehand and let them know you are interested, they can encourage you to come along and support you during the class. Or even better, bring a friend and just have fun with it!

HIIT take aways

If you are short of time but you still want results in either weight loss, endurance or even lower your blood pressure, high intensity interval training is a great exercise tool to assist with achieving your goals. It packs a lot of punch in a short period of time (with planned rest for a breather), so how can you not come back for more?

Remember to keep your efforts high, hold your standards and earn your rest.

If you’d like to come and try HIIT workout at Virgin Active, keep an eye out for our Grid Training program, which offers a 45min HIIT workout with curated playlists, supportive coaching and vibes for days!

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