In October 2013, the American College of Sports Medicine, the largest sports medicine and exercise science organisation in the world, declared that High Intensity Interval training (HIIT) would be this year’s top fitness trend.
HIIT is cardio-respiratory training involving short duration, high-intensity exercises such as running and cycling, mixed with lower intensity intervals of active recovery
Closer home in India, professional trainers are increasingly recommending HIIT to those in search of a fitter self, but with a few words of caution thrown in. Yet, clearly it’s a hit.
What is HIIT?
Althea Shah, VP Marketing and fitness expert, Gold’s Gym India, says, HIIT is cardio-respiratory training involving short duration, high-intensity exercises, mixed with lower intensity intervals of active recovery. “HIIT involves exercising at above 80 per cent of our maximum heart rate and includes outdoor activities such as running and cycling, or using equipment such as treadmills, elliptical runners, stair-climbers or stationary bikes.” One starts off with a warm-up of five minutes, gradually increasing the Rate of Perceived Exertion (RPE) — a method for determining exercise intensity levels.
“Post the warm-up, one can start with the workout,” she says, adding that HIIT follows a 1:2 ration (one minute of high-intensity workout followed by two minutes of active recovery where the activity has to continue at a lesser intensity).
What are its benefits?
Frank Mapranny, training director of Your Fitness Club, says, “High intensity exercises for short-time intervals increases the ability of the body to utilise oxygen to a greater extent. It increases the metabolic rate and helps burn fat at a faster pace.”
Shane D’souza, a fitness trainer with the recently-launched Inch by Inch, The Body Temple, says that HIIT has long-term benefits too. “It causes the human growth hormone, known as somatotropin or somatropin, which stimulates growth, cell reproduction and regeneration in humans, to be released into the bloodstream,” he adds.
Eat your way to fitness
D’Souza suggests that one should have two glasses of water an hour before HIIT. Shah advises that one should have a meal consisting of protein and carbohydrates at least an hour before and after the workout. The ratio should be twice the amount of carbohydrates to that of protein. So include, carbohydrates in the form of bananas and mangoes, and proteins such as chicken breast, fish, dairy products or whey protein powder.
A word of caution
Despite its multiple benefits, trainers advise that HIIT is not suitable for everyone. Mapranny explains, “An exerciser should have some amount of basic fitness to be able to sustain a steady state of cardio for 30 minutes.” Shah agrees that HIIT is not for beginners. “The heart rate shoots up during this exercise regime, so people with cardiovascular problems and pregnant women should avoid it completely.”