Intense cardio that’s not for everyone

Q: I have a friend who has lost massive amounts of fat doing High Intensity Interval Training. What exactly is this and will it work for me? I’m 36, 6’, 175, about 9% body fat.

A: High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) is a form of cardiovascular exercise performed in a short period at an intense rate, followed by a less intense recovery period and repeated multiple times during the same session.

Yes, it has its benefits which include accelerated fat loss and cardio conditioning, but it can be a grueling workout and isn’t for everybody. Given your stats (six feet tall and 175 lbs. with only 9% body fat), HIIT certainly isn’t the program I would prescribe for you if your goals are to build muscle.

Example: For an individual wanting to try HIIT on a treadmill, I would have him warm-up at a comfortable but brisk intensity for 5 minutes. Then I’d have him sprint at full intensity, no-holds-barred, for 45 seconds to a minute. For the next two minutes during the “recovery” phase, he would jog at a comfortable pace. We would then repeat this pattern of sprint and recovery about 6 to 10 times and finish it off with a cool-down. The total workout should take 15-20 minutes.

The benefits of this type of training are numerous. The major one is improved oxygen uptake or EPOC (Excess Post-Exercise Oxygen Consumption). In very basic terms, this means you will be consuming a lot more oxygen for the next 24 hours, raising your metabolism and, in turn, burning more fat.

The other big benefit to HIIT is that it works both the aerobic and the anaerobic system. Exercise physiologist Elizabeth Quinn explains it this way:

“During the high intensity efforts, the anaerobic system uses the energy stored in the muscles (glycogen) for short bursts of activity. Anaerobic metabolism works without oxygen, but the by-product is lactic acid. As lactic acid builds, the athlete enters oxygen debt, and it is during the recovery phase that the heart and lungs work together to “pay back” this oxygen debt and break down the lactic acid. It is in this phase that the aerobic system is using oxygen to convert stored carbohydrates into energy. It’s thought that by performing high intensity intervals that produce lactic acid during practice, the body adapts and burns lactic acid more efficiently during exercise. This means athletes can exercise at a higher intensity for a longer period of time before fatigue or pain slows them down.”

The next time you spend time on a treadmill, try a pre-programmed interval training set and see for yourself if this type of training is for you.

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Peter Jackson is nationally-syndicated fitness columnist. Peter welcomes your questions at [email protected] or visit him online at and

Courtesy Healthy Living News

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