The fitness world is buzzing about HIIT these days, and it is easy to see why. Find out how a HIIT routine can stand above the rest.

Health experts the world over cannot praise the power of exercise for its impact on health enough, yet less than 5% of us exercise for 30 minutes every day, and only 25% of us get the 150 minutes of physical activity we should be getting every week.

Topping the list of reasons is the simple fact that so many of us are leading busy, bustling lives and rarely have the time. So, what to do when we still want to reap all the heart-pumping rewards of a good workout but in the least amount of time possible? The solution just might be HIIT, also known as high-intensity interval training.

What is HIIT?

A HIIT routine blends short spurts of intense exercise with periods of rest or lower-intensity exercise, often involving a  combination of resistance training with aerobic activity. The goal of most HIIT workouts is to reach 70-90% max heart rate during the intense periods and 60% during rest. It has attracted the attention of the fitness world as a time-efficient option that can generate as many, and in some cases even more, health benefits than moderate, longer aerobic workouts.

4 science-backed ways HIIT can do your body good

1. HIIT may protect your heart better. HIIT study subjects who combined intense 3-minute cycling, moderate 1-minute cycling, and resistance training for 50 minutes, three times a week for 12 weeks, reported a higher reduction in blood pressure and total cholesterol compared to those who trained moderately. The HIIT group saw an average diastolic blood pressure drop of 6 mm/Hg compared to 2 mm/Hg and a total cholesterol drop of 0.52 mmol/L instead of 0.15 mmol/L.

2. HIIT can significantly improve insulin sensitivity. When women with moderately elevated blood pressure swam intensely in 6 to 10 30-second intervals 3 times a week for 15 weeks, they saw an increase in their insulin sensitivity by 22%. In contrast, the women who swam continuously for 1 hour at low intensity saw no change at all. This sensitivity boost is shown to last for up to 24-48 hours even after just one single exercise session.

3. HIIT is an efficient way to burn fat. Overweight men who sprinted for 8 seconds and then rested for 12 seconds for a total of 20 minutes, 3 times per week for 12 weeks, saw a reduction of total fat mass by 4.4 lb, and a 17% drop in visceral fat within the first 6 weeks. This matters because visceral fat is the dangerous type of fat found around the abdomen that is most associated with heart disease risk.

4. HIIT can do wonders for your mental health. All exercise can go a long way in helping us to maintain emotional balance, but exercising intensely is shown to be especially powerful when it comes to making us feel good. HIIT participants appear to enjoy a better ability to concentrate, more alertness, a boosted sense of confidence, and a decrease in symptoms of depression and anxiety.

A word about HIIT before you begin

If you are brand new or not very experienced with exercise, jumping into HIIT may not be the right choice. It is often best to first build up your fitness level to prevent getting injured.  Before you begin a new HIIT routine, speak with your healthcare provider to make sure that a high-intensity regimen is safe for you. Of course, any physical activity is great for your health, so keep moving your body whether intensely or not.