High-intensity interval training (HIIT) involves short, intense workouts. You give a series of exercises your full effort for short bursts, and follow it with a period of rest. While exercising with this type of maximum effort is difficult, it does wonders for your health.
“It’s exercise after exercise with minimal rest,” says personal trainer Stephen Navaretta, developer of The Tank Method, an exercise program based on body-weight exercises. “This gives your entire body, especially your heart and core, a great workout.”
Here are 10 major health benefits of doing a HIIT workout.
1. HIIT can help you burn more calories
While you’re doing a HIIT workout, you’re burning about the same amount of calories as you would during a typical workout like running. However, you burn more calories after a HIIT workout than you do during a steady-state cardio exercise like running, where your heart rate remains relatively stable.
This phenomenon of burning calories after you stop exercising is called excess post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC). EPOC occurs when your body burns more calories healing the wear and tear from an intense workout. It’s common with HIIT workouts because the exercise is so intense, and it has been linked to effective muscle growth.
2. HIIT may help you lose weight
Since HIIT burns more calories because of EPOC, it can be a more convenient way to help you lose weight, since you don’t have to spend as much time working out.
“With HIIT, your heart rate stays up for the entire exercise, which is optimal for burning calories, making this an effective option for weight loss,” Navaretta says.
3. HIIT builds many muscle groups
Most HIIT workouts involve many different movements. This allows you to work out different groups of muscle during the same workout — for example, a HIIT workout might have you do squats, push-ups, and burpees — which all target different muscles.
The intensity will also help build your muscles and improve their ability to keep working out. “This type of training boosts muscular endurance because the muscles don’t get much rest,” Navaretta says.
4. HIIT improves oxygen and blood flow
5. HIIT can help lower blood pressure
HIIT workouts can help lower blood pressure, a risk factor for heart disease.
6. HIIT can help lower blood sugar
HIIT training can also help control blood sugar levels, particularly for people with diabetes.
7. HIIT stimulates your metabolism
8. HIIT could improve sleep quality
Consistent HIIT workouts over a period of weeks could help improve your sleep quality and increase the time you spend sleeping.
9. HIIT may improve mental health
10. HIIT could help improve memory
Regular exercise not only bolsters general health, but it may also boost brain health. Scientists found that people who exercise have larger brain regions that are responsible for thinking and memory. Recent science shows that incorporating high-intensity intervals into workouts may be even more beneficial for brain health.
HIIT workouts allow you to reap many health benefits without needing to go to the gym, or invest in equipment. Navaretta recommends doing a HIIT workout about 3 to 5 times per week.
“The average person is looking to be athletic and toned,” Navaretta says. “HIIT training provides endless options for the types of movements that lead to that, as well as benefits like increased flexibility and endurance.”