SERIOUS ATHLETES HAVE long known about the benefits of high intensity interval training (HIIT)—alternating periods of short, intense anaerobic exercise with less intense recovery periods—and they’ve been reaping the rewards, too.
The idea is simple: less total time required to make a big change—more bang for your buck, says Brent C. Ruby, Ph.D., FACSM, Director of the Montana Center for Work Physiology and Exercise Metabolism at the University of Montana. But the perks go far beyond saving time and expediting results—and years of research prove it. So if you’re not already on board with HIIT, read on to get seriously motivated to start.
1. You’ll keep burning calories for hours
“HIIT burns more calories during and after a workout than continuous aerobic training,” says exercise physiologist and athletic trainer Scott Weiss, C.S.C.S. “The bursts of increased intensity simply increase the caloric expenditure, thus, more total calories are burned aiding in better body composition.” Even more: You burn more calories for about two hours after exercise, adding to the greater caloric fire, he explains. Exercise post oxygen consumption (EPOC) is the body’s natural ability to return to homeostasis after exercise. “With HIIT, the total calories burned is greater in EPOC than with continuous exercise.”
2. You’re more likely to stick to it
“HIIT is more enjoyable than low intensity steady-state exercise,” says Tom Holland, MS, CSCS, CISSN, an exercise physiologist. Science backs this up. One study found that people reported much greater enjoyment of HIIT over continuous vigorous-intensity exercise and continuous moderate-intensity exercise. But beyond getting a kick out of your workout, you’ll also be more likely to stick to a workout you love, Holland says.
3. HIIT can boost your endurance
Next time you’re slogging on a run, pick it up—just for 60 seconds. A study in PLoS ONE found that just one minute of high intensity work on an otherwise not-so-hard workout can boost your endurance and your overall health, seen through measures like improved blood pressure and higher counts of mitochondria, which help fuel your body and brain. And that improved endurance will carry over to your more moderate-intensity runs, rides, and other workouts.