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How to Make High-Intensity Exercise More Approachable

With a few tips and tricks, high-intensity interval training (HIIT) can be fun, approachable, and excellent for your health.

Even if you are just getting back into fitness or you are completely new to exercise and don’t necessarily consider yourself an athlete, you don’t have to shy away from high-intensity interval training. High-intensity interval training — often abbreviated HIIT — has been proven to torch tons of calories in a very brief amount of time. Being an exercise novice shouldn’t deter you from giving HIIT a try. Don’t let the idea of HIIT be daunting — with a few tips, this hot health trend can be much more approachable. Even if you already have a regular exercise routine, incorporating HIIT into your week can be a new exciting way to switch up your workouts.

What is High-Intensity Interval Training?

HIIT is a broad term for exercises that alternate between quick bursts of high-intensity exercise with periods of low-intensity recovery. One of the amazing aspects of HIIT is that you can get maximum health benefits in a minimal period of time. Generally, the duration of a HIIT workout ranges from just ten minutes to 30 minutes. Despite its short time span, it can confer health benefits akin to two times the amount of moderate-intensity workouts.

While the types of exercises and movements involved in HIIT vary, they regularly incorporate sprinting, jump rope, biking, or body-weight training. HIIT involves both your aerobic system and your anaerobic system. An example would be lightly jogging for several minutes followed by 30 seconds of all-out sprinting. This would be considered one “round” or one “set”. This set would be again followed by walking or light jogging at low-intensity for several more minutes. An entire workout consists of about four to six repetitions.

Benefits of HIIT

- Burns a large number of calories in half the time of other exercises (running, weight training, and biking).

- Increases your metabolic rate for hours after the exercise.

- Helps you lose fat.

- Helps you increase muscle mass.

- Helps you improve your oxygen consumption as much as endurance workouts but in half the time.

- Decreases heart rate and blood pressure.

- Reduces blood glucose levels and insulin resistance.

See a Personal Trainer

A session with a personal trainer can help you learn the proper techniques and allow you to learn from the expert what correct form looks like. Oftentimes people start a new workout regimen and jump in too quickly without learning proper form, which can lead to injury. Always prioritize form over speed so that you don’t compromise your health.

Select Your Style

Do you prefer to workout inside or outdoors? Do you enjoy using weights or do you prefer a sans-equipment approach? Do you tend to run, bike, or swim? When you start an HIIT program, be sure to set yourself up for success by selecting your surroundings and equipment according to what you like and what has already been successful for you in the past with other types of exercise.

Start with Easy-to-Master Movements

You can perform HIIT movements with dumbbells, kettlebells, medicine balls or simply your own body weight. It’s best to start with just using your body weight as resistance and add in weights or other equipment once you advance. Jumping jacks are incredibly easy and can be performed just about anywhere, meaning this type of movement may be an easier one to stick to. Burpees and sprints are also fairly simple to execute and don't require special equipment.

Don’t Worry, Get Appy

Simply breathing can be difficult during HIIT! Make your life a little easier by downloading a smartphone app. Apps such as Interval Timer (Deltaworks) allow you to customize your intensity intervals, number of rounds, countdown time periods, and other helpful features.

Hot and Cold

It’s important to make sure you add a warm-up and cool-down component to your HIIT routine. This will help prevent injury and empower you to achieve a full, thorough workout.

Workout with a Buddy

To make this type of exercise more accessible and a lot more fun, convince a friend to join you for a couple sessions. Pick a workout buddy who is at a similar fitness level as you so that the two of you may learn and advance together. Not only will you feel less intimidated by new movements or highly-intense routines, you’ll feel more satisfied after your workout because you spent some quality time learning a new skill with a friend.

Set Realistic Expectation for Yourself

Don’t beat yourself up when you don’t become an expert HIIT athlete right away. Even experienced fitness enthusiasts have to adjust to this type of exercise because it is tough. Be patient — you’ll master it with a little time and patience.

Advance Slowly

For beginners, start off with just one HIIT routine per week. As you become more comfortable doing HIIT exercises, you can advance by increasing the duration or number of sets, adding more complex movements, or doing longer high-intensity periods followed by shorter rest (low-intensity) periods. Listen to your body — be smart by taking time off between exercise sessions if you need it.


[Image via Shutterstock]

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