It’s no secret that high-intensity interval training, or HIIT for short, is one of the hottest fitness trends in gyms across the nation. But is it really that much better than traditional slow and steady cardio? Consider this: Adding HIIT to your workout a couple of times per week effectively torches fat with a minimal time commitment. It also boosts cardiorespiratory health and might even help you live longer!
Studies suggest that regularly including HIIT as part of your weekly fitness plan reduces more subcutaneous and abdominal body fat than other types of exercise. According to Australian researcher Stephen Boutcher, Ph.D., associate professor of medicine at the University of New South Wales in Sydney, HIIT pumps up both aerobic and anaerobic fitness, lowers insulin resistance, improves glucose tolerance and enhances skeletal muscle fat oxidation. But HIIT’s benefits don’t stop there.
A recent study that appeared in the journal Cell Metabolism found that high-intensity interval training caused cells to make more proteins for their energy-producing mitochondria and their protein-building ribosomes, effectively calling a halt to aging at the cellular level. The trial, which involved two groups — those age 18 to 30 and those age 65 to 80 — looked at the impact HIIT and weight workouts had on cells. While the younger volunteers saw an impressive 49 percent increase in mitochondrial capacity when participating in the HIIT workout, the older volunteers experienced an even more dramatic 69 percent increase.
Want to get all the goods HIIT has to offer? Here are four must-try moves to get you started:
This variation on the traditional jumping jack adds a deep squat to put additional emphasis on your legs and glutes.
How-To: Stand with your feet together, head up, shoulders back and back straight. Your arms should extend down at your sides. Hop your feet out to the side, lowering into a deep squat with your feet wider than shoulder-width apart as you bring your arms overhead. Exhale, pressing through the heels as you jump up. Bring your feet back together and lower your arms to the starting position as you land. Complete 25 reps.
Overhead Plate Lunge
This advanced version of the standard lunge uses strength, flexibility and balance as you engage your legs, shoulders and core. Make it harder by turning this move into a walking lunge.
How-To: Stand with your feet together and press a weight plate (or other weight like a dumbbell or medicine ball) over your head. Make sure to use a weight that you can comfortably hold. With your torso upright, engage your core and lock your arms. Step one foot forward into a deep lunge, keeping the plate overhead. Return to the starting position and repeat with the other foot. Continue alternating to failure.
Spider-Man Mountain Climber
This riff on the familiar mountain climber requires a good amount of hip mobility. This variation targets nearly every muscle group in the body — deltoids, biceps, triceps, chest, obliques, abs, quads, hamstrings and hip abductors.
How-To: Start in a high-plank position. Draw your right foot toward your right shoulder, bringing it as close to your hand as possible and plant it flat on the ground. The ideal form is to plant your foot flat on the ground next to your hand so your shin is parallel with your arm and vertical to the ground. Return your foot to the starting position and repeat with your left foot.
This core-centric move improves balance while strengthening the rectus abdominis, internal obliques and external obliques. Make it harder by holding a dumbbell, medicine ball or plate as you rotate.
How-To: Sit on the floor with your knees bent and your feet together. Lift your feet several inches off the floor, keeping your knees bent. Lean back to help balance so your back is at a 45-degree angle from the ground. Engage your core to help balance, and with your hands together, move your arms from one side to the other in a twisting motion. Be careful to only rotate the upper body, engaging your upper abs and obliques and not putting any pressure on your lower back.