Here at Myprotein, we’re always looking the best ways to stay at the very top of our game, so that means staying on top of the latest research too. That’s why when this huge, decade-long review of whether HIIT really was the king of workouts came out, we were excited to say the least.
In recent years, HIIT has taken the fitness industry by storm mainly because the idea that you can be really fit from just 20 minutes of hard work a day makes it incredibly convenient. So, is it true? What other benefits does HIIT offer other than looking buff?
Let’s dig into the research.
What does the research look at?
When it comes to studies, not all are created equally. Whether the information can be seen as valuable relies on multiple variables, but one of the big ones is how much data the study has.
This can come down to the number of participants, the amount of time the study ran for, and so much more.
In this case, the research was a review of a whole load of different studies on HIIT spanning a decade.1 Reviews tend to be more reliable as they’re looking at lots of data from different sources.
The review was specifically looking at high intensity interval training (HIIT) that was defined as short high intensity workout bursts interspersed with recovery periods. The exercise bursts were defined as lasting no longer than 15 minutes in total, with the average total workout time (including rests) being about 20 minutes.
Sounds like a pretty standard HIIT workout to us.
What did the research find?
First off, in the short term at least, HIIT workout plans are perhaps easier to stick to than other plans. Participants generally reported high rates of adherence to HIIT which is most likely down to the short amount of time it takes to do the workouts.
At present, general guidelines for physical activity sit at 150-300 minutes of moderate activity per week, or 75-100 minutes of vigorous activity per week.
It’s clear that HIIT workouts fall way below this, but the research actually found that comparable improvements to health were seen when either the guidelines or the HIIT regime were followed.
In fact, the researchers stated that “The findings from recent trials suggest that low‐volume HIIT can induce similar, and at times greater, improvements in cardiorespiratory fitness, glucose control, blood pressure, and cardiac function when compared to more traditional forms of aerobic exercise training including high‐volume HIIT and moderate intensity continuous training, despite requiring less time commitment and lower energy expenditure.”
We all know that one of the biggest barriers to a decent workout is time, so this is pretty big news to anyone looking to improve their fitness with the limited time they have.
There’s also been some concerns that regular HIIT could be too hard on the body, but the review found no real evidence of this, but if you’ve been on the bench for a while, or not up to intense exercise, you may want to seek medical advice before you dive right in.
With health and fitness, there’s always more research we can do. Some interesting next steps would be to see the real long-term benefits of regular HIIT over an even longer period of time.
Also, for those of us always looking to take it up a level, is there an ultimate workout combination of HIIT and resistance training that we can be tapping into? We’ll have to wait and see.
Take home message
HIIT has made fitness accessible to nearly everyone, requiring little time or equipment. It’s great to know that if you’re short on time, you can still have a positive impact on your health with a few short and sweaty minutes of exercise.