7 Benefits of High-Intensity Interval Training

Get fitter, faster with this popular workout trend.

September 5, 2014
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If boutique gyms like Barry’s Bootcamp and Orangetheory are popping up all over your city, you’re noticing the explosive trend of high-intensity interval training, or HIIT. These fast and furious workouts taut short, powerful bursts of exercise as key to getting the most out of your fitness regimen.

More from Fitbie: Everything You Need to Know About HIIT Workouts

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And it doesn't look like the HIIT approach is going anywhere anytime soon. According to the 2013 Fitness Programs & Equipment Trends Report from the IDEA Health and Fitness Association, more than 90 percent of all fitness professionals are incorporating HIIT into their programs, and for good reason: HIIT is a proven way to get you fitter, faster. 

Case in point: A 2014 study in Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism found that both HIIT and continuous moderate-energy training resulted in comparable 24-hour energy expenditure -- which could be why you can get equally killer results without spending as much time at the gym.

If you’re not sold on the promise of shorter sweat sessions yet, you will be after you check out these 7 proven benefits of incorporating interval training into your exercise routine:

#1 HIIT Benefit: You'll break past that plateau.
Your hour-on-the-elliptical fitness rut may be to blame for that unchanging number on the scale: “This form of steady-state exercise is very good for developing aerobic fitness, but it does not challenge the anaerobic energy system, which is needed during intense activity such as sprinting or jumping,” says Brian Sutton, a certified personal trainer and director of development at the National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM). “By challenging the anaerobic energy system, you will achieve higher levels of muscular power and can potentially burn a high number of calories during and after your workout, which can accelerate weight loss."

More from Fitbie: 10 Interval Training Workouts That Melt Fat 

#2 HIIT Benefit: You will get healthier -- science says so.
If your long-term health matters to you, HIIT can help: Sutton cites studies from respected sources like the Journal of the American Medical Session which show that both healthy and unhealthy populations have seen positive results from interval training. How come? It improves your overall cardiovascular health, which can reduce risk of heart disease, cholesterol, and insulin sensitivity, Sutton says. 

#3 HIIT Benefit: You'll get more bang for your buck.
Are you paying for a pricey gym membership but don’t move beyond the treadmill? You’re wasting both time and money. Membership prices at HIIT specialty gyms might give you sticker shock, but their experts can give you the specialized HIIT instruction needed to take your workouts to the next level -- and you can move your daily jogs out to the sidewalk for free. Plus, knowing that you’ve shelled out that dough for a premium fitness experience might motivate you to use up your monthly classes. 

#4 HIIT Benefit: You can tailor your workout to your personal goals.
Want to blast your glutes? Tone your triceps? Buff up your back muscles? There’s a move for that. “Lower extremity muscular endurance will be seen as the legs are recruited heavily in most HIIT protocols,” Sutton says. “However, many body parts will likely receive benefits.” Target your butt with jumping lunges or shred your abs with Russian twists to show your problem areas who’s boss.

#5 HIIT Benefit: You can take HIIT home.
If you’re trying to save money or you’re shy in a gym full of fitness buffs, you can follow along via DVD: Popular at-home programs like INSANITY and P90X bring targeted workout plans and pulse-pounding workouts right into your living room. Even cheaper? Attend a free trial class at a specialty HIIT gym or boot camp and try out some of the simpler, equipment-free moves at home.

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#6 HIIT Benefit: You can challenge yourself.
High-intensity interval training is for people with a solid fitness foundation -- and that means it’s going to be some tough stuff. But just because you’re a distance runner or a lifelong swimmer doesn’t mean you can jump right into the advanced class: “When beginning the program, the intervals should be relatively short and gradually become more intense over time,” Sutton says. After things get easy, make them hard again: The next time the instructor gives the class an advanced option, try it.

#7 HIIT Benefit: You earn those rest days.
Tired of feeling guilty when you just can’t fit the gym in? With HIIT, your body needs some time to rest up. While you’re icing sore muscles or getting that deep-tissue massage, you can remember that taking care of yourself is the reason you’re getting fit in the first place -- and that high-intensity workouts have that name for a reason.

UP NEXT: The Playlist That'll Amp Up Your Next HIIT Workout (LISTEN)