The Breakdown: Does High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) Actually Work?

With the rise of powerhouse gyms like F45, the question arises over the legitimacy of the HIIT style workout.

High Intensity Interval Training, or HIIT, has been floating around for a while. However, HIIT has become increasingly popular over the past couple of years.

The original HIIT programs are based on getting fit in just 4 minutes. The concept was brought to light by a team of researchers from the National Institute of Fitness and Sports in Japan in the 1990s.

The research showed 4-minute workouts which had repeated cycles of 20 seconds of work and 10 seconds of rest done four days a week, were more successful in improving aerobic fitness than an hour at the gym five times a week.

So, are HIIT style workouts really more effective than going for an old-fashioned run?

It’s hard sometimes to sort through the all the different information surrounding our health and fitness. At the moment the information is varied, with some HIIT gyms only promoting the original 4-minute workout, while the others vary from 10 minutes to 45.

4 minutes doesn’t sound like a lot, but it seems like you really can do cardio training and improve your fitness in just 4 minutes.

Sports scientist Chris Easton told New Scientist: “High-intensity training works: it’s been shown pretty consistently to make you fitter, make you healthier”.

With HIIT workouts, you are able to work at 80% – 90% the whole time. During the workout you’re pushing your body to its limits in short bursts which forces you to adapt. In an average workout, the greater the intensity, the greater your body adapts.

If you are working for an hour you will likely be going at 60%, to make sure you last the whole hour, meaning you are not pushing your body to the level that will help it adapt quicker.  Even 4 minutes at 90% has greater benefits for your lungs, heart and circulation than an hour at 60%.

HIIT isn’t for everyone, but it certainly does work.

Milly Haddrick


Milly is passionate about the issues and concerns of women navigating their way through the world of sex, dating and relationships, with a side passion for brie, dark chocolate and red wine.

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