Make HIIT a HIT in your training program.

While keeping your cardio training at a steady heart rate is key to training for events like a marathon, there are other training benefits to be gained from high intensity interval training or simply “HIIT.”

Here are some reasons why you should be including it in your training regime:

1. HIIT Keeps Your Metabolism BLAZING

As long as you aren’t doing excessive amounts every day, HIIT will increase metabolism and keep it elevated far more than standard cardio. In one study, metabolism was three-fold higher than a regular steady-state workout (1). In fact, a study that investigated seven HIIT sessions over two weeks found significantly higher fat burning ability in moderately active women (2). For those short on time, this offers a great way to burn maximal calories and keep the fat burning furnace high.

2.HIIT Makes Mundane Cardio Interesting

Unlike traditional cardio, where you would have to increase your workout times, HIIT workouts can be full of variety. Some examples:

  • Add more intervals
  • Increase the resistance
  • Increase the speed or pedaling frequency if on a bike
  • Decrease rest times
  • Use kettlebells, the pool, hills outside, or even push a sled

3. HIIT Improves Heart Health

A study in patients with lifestyle-induced cardiovascular disease, published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, reported that “HIIT significantly increases CRF [cardio-respiratory fitness] by almost double that of MICT [moderate-intensity continuous training] in patients with lifestyle-induced chronic diseases” (3).

4. HIIT Aids in Blood Sugar Control

HIIT can burn through substantial carbohydrate stores in the body known as glycogen in a very short time. When adjusted properly HIIT has very potent effects on the expression of the anti-diabetic, anti-obesity, and anti-metabolic enzymes and messengers more than any other form of exercise (4). HIIT has been shown to have superior effects on blood sugar control even in young and healthy people (5).

5. HIIT is a Time Saver

Leading exercise scientist Glenn Gaesser is a proponent of HIIT and notes, “HIIT may prove to be a good example where less can be more” (6). Even a few sessions of HIIT for two weeks has been shown to increase muscle oxidative capacity and improve exercise metabolism (7). Basically, short workouts will increase your daily energy expenditure to a similar degree that very long steady-state cardio workouts would (8).

6. HIIT Stops Food Cravings

Longer steady-state cardio has been associated with increases in appetite, hunger, and food intake (9). However, there is good evidence that intensity can help minimize exercise-induced food cravings (9). Beneficial effects of high-intensity interval training on appetite, hunger, and amount of food eaten have been reported (10; 11). For instance, in a study recently published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, researchers noted that high-intensity exercise “increases neural responses in reward-related regions of the brain in response to images of low-calorie foods and suppresses activation during the viewing of high-calorie foods” (12).

Where to Start?

As you should before beginning any exercise regimen, get your doctor’s okay before beginning HIIT. Then, if you’re new to HIIT, start off simple and adjust as you go. Try by replacing a couple of your regular cardio workouts a week with a 20- to 30-minute HIIT workout including a warmup and cool-down period. Sprints on the recumbent bike are a great place to start. Warm up for three-to-five minutes at a steady pace. Then do 30 seconds to a minute at a high intensity where you increase the resistance and pedaling frequency. Next, follow it up with an active rest period for double or up to six times the time of the exercise—that’s a one-to-two work-to-rest ratio all the way up to a one-to-six work-to-rest ratio. For example, you could sprint for 30 seconds and walk for 60 seconds using a one-to-two ratio. As you get more advanced, you can be more adventurous by using hill sprints outdoors or even the swimming pool.


  1. Townsend JR, Stout JR, Morton AB et al. Excess Post-Exercise Oxygen Consumption (EPOC) Following Multiple Effort Sprint And Moderate Aerobic Exercise. Kineziologija 2013;45:16-21.
  2. Talanian JL, Galloway SD, Heigenhauser GJ, Bonen A, Spriet LL. Two weeks of high-intensity aerobic interval training increases the capacity for fat oxidation during exercise in women. Journal of Applied Physiology 2007;102:1439-47.
  3. Weston KS, Wisloff U, Coombes JS. High-intensity interval training in patients with lifestyle-induced cardiometabolic disease: a systematic review and meta-analysis. British journal of sports medicine 2014;48:1227-34.
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