Top 2014 Fitness Trend: HIIT Is Where It’s At

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The American College of Sports Medicine named HIIT, or high intensity interval training, as the top global fitness trend of 2014.  Everywhere, you can find HIIT workouts.  They’re on P90X infomercials, DVDs, and in your local fitness centers.

Never tried HIIT?  Here’s how a typical workout goes:  1. Go hard.    2.  Go easier.    3.  Repeat a set number of times.

You can make a HIIT workout out of any type of activity.  You can use equipment, or your own body weight.  You can make a HIIT workout out of your daily run, or mix strength training and cardio.  The point is to combine intervals of high intensity exercise with lower-intensity recovery periods to maximize fat burn.  How hard you go, and for how long, depends on your fitness level.

I’m not one for fitness gimmicks–But HIIT is one trend that I welcome with open arms.  Training at high intensity intervals is actually not new–Fitness professionals like me have been using this type of training with my clients and in my fitness classes for some time.  And if you’re a runner, you’ve likely heard of Fartleks, a method of training using bursts of fast running intervals.  So why is it catching on now?

For one, the research is there to back it up, and people are realizing it.  HIIT is highly effective, partly because higher intensity training increases after-burn, or the number of calories that you keep burning after your workout is over.  In addition, and perhaps even more importantly, people are realizing that they don’t have to spend hours a day at the gym, which saves time and money.  Research shows that a HIIT workout can acheive the same benefits as a conventional workout, in half the time.  Considering how time-strapped we all are these days, this makes it easier than ever to get healthy.

Finally, most HIIT programs can be modified for most fitness levels, as long as all participants really do go hard during those “hard” intervals.  What does this mean?  You need to get out of your comfort zone.  This means different things for different individuals, but one way to measure it is to use heart rate, working at about 80-85% of the average maximum heart rate for someone your age.  To find that number, subtract your age from 220.  Then shoot for a heart rate of about 80-85 percent of that number during the high-intense intervals.

That being said, some HIIT programs that are being marketed in the media right now may be a little too crazy for you if you have certain health concerns, so do your research first, and check with your doctor.  Also, it always helps to have a certified fitness professional recommend the type of interval training program that is best suited to fit your needs.

So should you ditch your conventional workouts?  Not at all!  Variety is key to a well-rounded exercise regimen.  But changing a portion of your weekly workouts to HIIT workouts may be just the boost you need to keep you on track in the long run.

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