HIIT is a type of workout that switches between high effort and recovery periods. HIIT can be modified to meet your needs and fitness level. This makes it accessible to adults of all ages. As HSS exercise physiologist Kelyssa Hall explains, “the goal is to switch between high and low levels of effort based on which activity level is right for you.”
This back-and-forth is what makes HIIT different from other workouts. For example, in circuit workouts, you complete an exercise for a set time or number of repetitions. HIIT is focused on your effort during a set amount of time, not just completing it.
There are many ways to do a HIIT workout. It can be done with little or no equipment or in any style of exercise you like. If you like to bike, for instance, you can ride for 30 seconds at a high effort and 90 seconds at a lower level of effort to recover.
HIIT is effective in improving heart health. In fact, it can improve heart health in a shorter time when compared to other types of exercise. HIIT can also improve the maximum volume of oxygen the body can use, known as VO2 max. The better your VO2 max, the better your heart can pump blood. This also means it will be harder to get out of breath. These are protective factors against heart disease.
Of course, you should always check with your doctor before starting any exercise program. But HIIT is safe for adults of all ages and may well be a great option for you. Some general guidelines:
The high-intensity interval should feel challenging. But it’s important to start slow. Think about intensity as a ten-point scale, with zero as no effort and ten as the hardest effort. Start with high effort at a three and recovery at a two. For example:
“As you continue on your HIIT journey, you can slowly increase effort during the high-intensity interval,” Hall explains, adding that it is important that high intensity feels challenging and uncomfortable but not dangerous to your health. Ultimately, you want your high effort to reach around an eight and your recovery period to around a four.
Adding HIIT to your exercise routine can provide variety and result in health benefits. As always, be sure to start slow and check with your doctor before starting a new exercise program.