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  Latest update: 11/15/2021

High Intensity Interval Training

High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT or HIT) is an abbreviated approach to interval training, providing performance and health benefits which are similar to a traditional interval program in a more time efficient manner.

Although significant improvements in endurance performance (and corresponding physiological markers such as VO2max, oxidative muscle enzyme activity, performance to exhaustion) result from endurance training programs, these benefits plateau at a certain point and additional increases in hours of training provide little benefit. To reach the next level of performance, intervals must be added to the training regimen.

What is HIT? A training session consisting of cycles of strenuous exertion for up to 30 seconds followed by a similar rest interval. Repeat 4 or more times. There should be a short warm up as well as a cool down. A HIT session can require as little as 10 minutes.

The original study demonstrating the training advantage of intervals used an HIT approach. Even this brief study (2 weeks) with a total of 6 sessions of four 30 second intervals each was enough to demonstrate the advantages over the comparison group assigned to standard endurance training.

HIT was originally proposed for the highly trained athletes looking for a final performance edge for an upcoming event, it has become synonymous with shortened interval training routines used by all athletes.

HIT is a useful interval regimen for

What are the downsides? The most significant is the tendency to feel HIT is enough and no aerobic exercise is required on a non-HIT day. Although this may have little impact in a person's VO2max status, it is a negative for other health benefits. A good example is blood sugar control in a pre diabetic. The beneficial effect of aerobic exercise to decrease the insulin requirements to move dietary glucose into muscle cells lasts less than 24 hours. So if you are not exercising every day, average blood sugars will trend higher.

HIT has a place as a tool for those who want to improve or maintain their VO2max but have limited training time. Perhaps it is a vacation or a hectic week at work that eliminates regular training opportunities. For those adopting HIT as an alternative to beginning a more traditional dedicated training program (with specific interval days) an initial burst of improving numbers is likely to plateau earlier (and at a lower level).

All questions and suggestions are appreciated and will be answered.

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