HIIT stands for “high intensity interval training.” Like the name suggests, it’s a super demanding workout that mixes rest periods with short bursts of maximum effort activity.
For example, you might run at top speed for a minute and walk or jog for three minutes. Then you’d repeat the cycle at least a few times.
You can add high intensity intervals to just about any workout, including running, cycling, swimming, and rowing. But bodyweight workouts are probably the most well-known, popular version of HIIT. They use moves like lunges, burpees, and squats to strengthen your muscles and get your heart pounding.
(Learn about different types of HIIT here.)
Regardless of which type of exercise you incorporate them into, high intensity intervals will leave you feeling absolutely exhausted.
They increase your heart rate to around 80% or 90% of its maximum capacity and totally deplete your muscles of oxygen.
When you’re in the middle of a tough interval and your chest is heaving, it’s difficult to motivate yourself to keep going.
But if you can commit to doing HIIT workouts regularly, you’ll experience a ton of benefits.
Even if you’re not trying to lose weight, there are lots of reasons to do HIIT, including better mood, lower blood sugar, and more.
To motivate you to keep going when you want to give up, I’ve outlined the health benefits of interval training in more detail below. I’ve also included some inspirational quotes and tips to make your HIIT routine more fun, which will hopefully make it easier to stick with it and see results.
7 Surprising Health and Fitness Benefits of HIIT
HIIT is more efficient than other forms of cardio, so you’ll start getting results from HIIT quickly.
Here are 7 of the health and fitness benefits you can expect to see after a few weeks of regular workouts.
(Learn more about some of the pros and cons of HIIT here.)
1. Burns a ton of calories
One of the best things about HIIT workouts is that they torch a huge amount of calories.
A recent study found that HIIT burns 25% to 30% more calories than running or biking at a steady pace.
A 155 pound person burns about 370 calories after cycling at a moderate pace for 30 minutes. But if they incorporate high intensity intervals into their workout, they can burn an extra 100 calories in the same amount of time.
So if you don’t have a lot of free time to spend at the gym, HIIT is an ideal workout that can help you get results faster.
As an added bonus, HIIT even revs up your metabolism and causes your body to keep burning calories for hours after your workout.
2. Melts away fat
Believe it or not, HIIT also burns more fat and increases your physical fitness faster than traditional workouts.
HIIT is so intense that it requires you to work at about 80% or 90% of your maximum capacity. This completely exhausts your muscles and depletes them of oxygen.
With no oxygen around to fuel your muscles, they have to switch over to burning fat instead, which will help you get a leaner physique over time.
Research suggests that adding HIIT to your workout routine may even help your body burn more fat during regular, moderate intensity exercise.
In a recent study, a group of women did a HIIT cycling workout every other day for 2 weeks. After completing the interval training program, they burned 36% more fat during moderate intensity exercise than before.
Their cardiovascular fitness was also 13% better, which is a pretty amazing result considering they did just 2 weeks of HIIT.
3. Increases your endurance
HIIT can also help you increase your endurance and become a better, faster athlete.
In one study, participants were able to bike for twice as long after doing HIIT workouts for just 8 weeks.
Research also suggests that HIIT is more effective at increasing your endurance than steady state exercise.
In a recent study, one group of participants did a 20 minute HIIT workout 3 days per week for 8 weeks. The other group performed a regular cycling workout 4 days per week for 30 minutes.
Even though the HIIT group worked out for fewer hours overall, their VO2 max increased just as much as the cycling group.
So if you don’t have time for long bike rides and runs, you can still increase your endurance by doing short, intense HIIT workouts.
4. Stabilizes blood sugar
HIIT also seems to be more effective at controlling blood sugar than moderate intensity exercise.
A 2015 scientific review found that HIIT helped people with and without diabetes control their blood sugar levels better than steady state cardio.
Another recent study showed that doing HIIT workouts 4 times per week for 8 weeks decreased insulin resistance by 26%. Moderate intensity exercise, on the other hand, didn’t reduce insulin resistance at all.
Having more stable blood sugar will improve your mood, energy levels, and make it easier to control your weight—so use that as motivation the next time you feel like giving up during a tough interval!
5. Builds strength
Although you won’t get ripped like a bodybuilder from HIIT, you’ll still build a good amount of muscle.
Incorporating kettlebells and bodyweight exercises (calisthenics) into your workouts will tone your body and increase your functional strength. HIIT can also help you gain muscle power, which will make you a better athlete who’s capable of explosive movements.
Studies have shown that following a HIIT program for just 6 weeks can increase your muscle power by nearly 10%.
HIIT also increases your levels of human growth hormone by up to 450% in the 24 hours after you work out. HGH can help you build more muscle and burn fat, getting you closer to that lean physique you’ve always wanted.
6. Decreases blood pressure and bad cholesterol
HIIT can help protect your heart by lowering high blood pressure and reducing bad cholesterol, which are big risk factors for heart attacks.
A recent study found that doing HIIT workouts 5 days per week for just 6 weeks lowered men’s blood pressure by an average of 5.5 mm/HG.
Research even suggests that interval training can decrease high blood pressure more than moderate intensity exercise.
Another benefit of HIIT is that it reduces bad cholesterol and increases good HDL cholesterol more than steady state cardio.
So if you’re getting older and want to make sure your heart stays in top shape, HIIT is a great option.
Researchers even say that it’s well-tolerated by people with a history of strokes and heart problems like coronary artery disease—but make sure you check in with your doctor before trying it.
7. Boosts your mood
Although it’s hard to motivate yourself to go to the gym and do a tough interval workout, you’ll feel so much better after you’re done.
Exercise in general is a huge mood booster. It releases endorphins that can help you feel more relaxed, improve your self-esteem, and even reduce muscle pain.
HIIT workouts in particular increase a protein called BDNF that improves cognitive function and regulates your mood.
Low levels of this protein are associated with mental health conditions like depression and bipolar disorder, so boosting it may help reduce symptoms.
Studies have also shown that people tend to prefer HIIT workouts over other forms of cardio because they enjoy it more. If you like your workout, you’re more likely to leave the gym feeling energized and stick with it long-term.
All in all, you’ll feel happier and more accomplished after you crush a HIIT workout, so pushing through all the fatigue and soreness is worth it.
10 HIIT Quotes to Get You Motivated
Even if you know working out is good for you, it can still be tough to motivate yourself to get off the couch and hit the gym.
Here are 10 motivational quotes that will help inspire you to head to HIIT class when you don’t want to.
Do HIIT now. Sometimes “later” becomes “never.”
You won’t always love the workout, but you will always love the results.
No matter how many mistakes you make or how slow you progress, you are still way ahead of everyone who isn’t trying.
If you think a minute goes by fast, you don’t know HIIT.
The pain you feel today will be the strength you feel tomorrow.
Fitness is not about being better than someone else. It’s about being better than you used to be.
If it doesn’t challenge you, it doesn’t change you.
You have a choice. You can throw in the towel or use it to wipe the sweat off your face.
Nothing will work unless you do.
You’re only one workout away from a good mood.
If HIIT Gets Boring, Try These Motivation Tips
Changing up your workout routine can help you get excited about going to the gym again.
Here are a few ways to spice up your interval training when things are feeling stale.
Try a new type of exercise
The great thing about intervals is that they can be incorporated into just about any workout—swimming, biking, bodyweight, running, and more.
If your usual HIIT running workout is feeling a little stale, try hopping on the exercise bike, the rower, or jumping in the pool instead.
Add in new moves and props
If you don’t want to switch to a whole different type of exercise, you can still make your current routine more interesting by incorporating new moves and props.
Doing burpees over and over again can get boring, so look online and see if there are any bodyweight exercises you haven’t tried, like ski or pike jumps.
Using exercise equipment like resistance bands, kettlebells, and steppers can also add some variety to your workouts.
If you’re a runner or cyclist, try taking a different route for a change of scenery, or change the length of your intervals to keep things fresh.
Use an app to gamify your workouts
Another way to make your workouts fun is to turn them into a game by using a workout app like Freeletics or Down Dog.
(See some of my favorite workout apps here.)
They enable you to compete against your friends and other app users, which will motivate you to push yourself harder to get to the top of the leaderboard.
Most apps also have online communities that you can post in to get support when you feel like throwing in the towel.
There are even some unique apps on the market like Zombies, Run! that will turn your whole workout into an immersive, video game-like experience.
The app simulates a zombie apocalypse and makes you run faster periodically to avoid being devoured by monsters that are chasing you down.
Zombies, Run! is a super fun way to get moving, so if your usual HIIT routine is feeling a little stale, download it and try it out!
HIIT is more intense than regular cardio, so it can be tough to motivate yourself to go to the gym when you know your workout is going to kick your butt.
But it’s worth fighting through the pain to experience the amazing benefits of interval training.
It can help you burn more fat and calories than traditional workouts, decrease your blood pressure and bad cholesterol, and even put you in a better mood.
It’s also great for busy people because even short, 20 minute workouts will still give you great results.
If you manage to stick with HIIT long-term, you’ll likely be rewarded with better health.
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Hope this helps!