Should You "HIIT" It?

Have you ever heard of High Impact Interval Training? Sounds a little daunting, but just call it HIIT (pronounced “hit”) and work it into a conversation and you’ll sound like you’ve got it going on.

Anyway, all HIIT means is that you’re doing a brief period of intense exercise followed by a period of rest (or really low impact exercise). Does that still sound daunting? Well, it’s got some terrific benefits, and it’s completely adjustable for your current level of fitness (yes, there’s even a version that only involves walking!).

Here are some of the benefits of HIIT, according to the research:

  • A review of a number of studies indicated that for those with lifestyle-related metabolic disease, the increase in cardiorespiratory fitness for those who participated in HIIT exercise vs. traditional continuous rate exercise was about double
  • The same paper also showed that HIIT also improves insulin sensitivity and blood pressure
  • In one study, adults who participated in a 16 week program of a walking version of HIIT vs. walking at a continuous speed showed greater improvements in body composition, aerobic fitness, and glucose control (each group walked a total of 60 minutes five times per week, though, so the volume of exercise was high, but keep reading for more good news)
  • A recent study showed that a lower volume (as in, less time!) HIIT protocol, after only two weeks of exercising about 20 minutes a day, three times a week, lowered 24-hour mean blood glucose in the previously inactive patients with type 2 diabetes

So, to break it down a little further for you, even though no one’s 100% sure yet, it seems like HIIT, even as little as doing one minute of intense exercise followed by one minute of rest for a cycle of 20  minutes, can really, really improve your health when you have type 2 diabetes! That’s 10 minutes of exercise (interspersed with ten minutes of rest) just three times a week.

Other things you should know:

  • The ADA recommends you see your doctor and have a 12-lead electrocardiogram (ECG) screening before starting any vigorous exercise program
  • You should also talk to your doctor about the kind of exercise program you’re planning on starting, just to make sure they’re cool with it
  • Work with a trained professional when you start out
  • Make sure you warm up and cool down when you perform HIIT

Remember: the “high intensity” part of this exercise protocol means high intensity for you and only you. If briskly walking gets you to that zone, bam, there you go. You do not need to be an athlete to perform this type of exercise (though as your fitness improves, you certainly can move onto things like running, sprinting, jumping jacks, swimming, jump-roping; whatever you like!).

Is HIIT right for you? Only you and your healthcare professional can determine that, but if you’re looking for a way to fit in exercise and improve your health in myriad ways, it might be just what you’re looking for.

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