The word "cardio" is often synonymous with tortuous long-distance running.
Check out the tabloids, or spend just a few minutes talking with your local supplement store cashier. And they would have you thinking that cardio is the king of burning calories, losing fat and being healthy.
Now, if you happen to enjoy running like you were being chased for miles, that’s one thing.
But what if I told you there’s a way for you to run less … and at the same time burn more fat, lose more weight and feel healthier than when you were dragging yourself through long, boring cardio?
It’s time to ‘HIIT’ the ground running … and keep burning fat after you quit!
This isn’t some magic pill, or the kind of latest and greatest fitness fad you see advertised on late-night television.
This is something called High Intensity Interval Training, or HIIT for short.
HIIT is a form of exercise in which you alternate between very intense anaerobic periods and slower recovery periods. This makes for a shorter, more-efficient workout.
"The high intensity intervals should be performed at near maximum effort, and the recovery intervals should be done at about 50%." That’s how personal trainer Daniel Lagimodiere explains this fitness routine.
Before we deep-dive into how you can use it today to start losing weight more effectively, we need to understand how different types of cardio affect the body.
Get More Fit: HIIT vs. LISS
So we’ve already learned what HIIT stands for, High Intensity Interval Training. On the other side of the cardio spectrum is LISS, which stands for Low Intensity Steady State cardio.
LISS consists of low- to moderate-intensity work. An example would be walking on the treadmill or taking a leisurely bike ride.
To test how effective cardio work is on performance, scientists focus on two tests: the lactate threshold (LT) and anaerobic threshold (AT).
Without getting into too much of the science, when both these thresholds are broken, the body experiences greater metabolic changes.
High-intensity training breaks both the AT and LT, and that’s what causes your body to experience metabolic changes.
When you are doing LISS, you are considered below the AT and LT and do not experiences this metabolic change.
Essentially, when you are performing HIIT workouts, you’re improving your metabolism. This could result in greater fat loss over time.
And when I say over time, I not only mean greater fat-loss in total compared to long, boring cardio … but also in just a 24-hour period.
When performing LISS, you’re only burning calories at that precise moment. There’s no 24-hour energy expenditure (i.e., boost in metabolism).
This actually causes a negative effect on the body. That’s because your body adjusts to this slow-paced cardio. And in the long run, you will end up needing more and more to lose fat.
You see, long, boring cardio affects the body almost like an addiction. Over time, it takes longer and longer periods of steady activity (often in the form of running) to burn the same amount of calories.
But with HIIT, when you receive this boost in metabolism, your body continues to burn calories — even after you stop your workout.
A study at Colorado State University found just 150 seconds of intense exercise can burn as many as 200 calories over the course of the next 24 hours. That’s thanks to a boosted resting metabolic rate.
Aside from just the performance benefits of HIIT, there may also be general health benefits to performing HIIT instead of regular long-distance cardio.
Running long distances consistently over time has shown to increase risks of heart disease, osteoarthritis, weakening of the immune system, injuries, and overall inflammation in the body.
This doesn’t mean longer cardio sessions don’t have a place in a workout schedule or healthy lifestyle. But, as they say, the poison is in the dose.
Start Getting Fit With HIIT
So how do you start doing HIIT? It’s actually quite simple. But just because you do less running, doesn’t mean it’s not hard. There’s a reason "intensity" is in the name.
If you want to do HIIT right and receive the metabolic benefits, then you need to work hard and actually give it 100%.
As I said before, HIIT is simply a form of exercise in which you alternate between very intense anaerobic periods and slower recovery periods. This kind of workout can last anywhere from five to 20 minutes, depending on your stamina or experience.
If you’d like to get started with a HIIT workout, here’s an easy and effective routine. (Ideas courtesy of Joseph Mercola MD.)
Warm up for 3 minutes.
Exercise as hard and fast as you can for 30 seconds. You should be gasping for breath and feeling like you couldn’t possibly go on another few seconds. It is better to use lower resistance and higher repetitions to increase your heart rate.
Recover for 90 seconds, still moving, but at a slower pace and with decreased resistance.
Repeat the high-intensity exercise and recovery 7 more times. When you’re first starting out, depending on your level of fitness, you may only be able to do two or three repetitions of the high-intensity intervals. As you get fitter, just keep adding repetitions until you’re doing 8 during your 20-minute session.
Cool down for a few minutes afterward by cutting down your intensity by 50% to 80%.
This type of routine can be performed with sprints, on a bike and even using weights. The key is that you perform a period of high-intensity work followed by slower-paced recovery.
Now, this type of exercise isn’t for everyone. Unlike actual running, this isn’t a race to the finish. People do cardio for a variety of reasons — heart health, toning up and/or weight loss. As with any activity, start small and try to build up your intensity to a level that’s good for your body.
That’s all for today. I hope you can incorporate this into your healthy lifestyle and begin to see all the amazing benefits of HIIT!
Happy and healthy investing,