by Tobi Millrood

High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) is a mainstay of workout programs for both the home and the gym. Whether it’s the ubiquitous Orange Theory Fitness classes, the new F45 studios, CrossFit or Tabata classes, HIIT workouts are everywhere. And for good reason. HIIT offers tremendous benefits to your body and your mind. While HIIT can be part of a gym program that requires a contract fee, HIIT can just as easily be done for free at home with no equipment.

HIIT is not a very complicated workout concept, and because the body alone is the sole piece of “equipment” needed to do it, the offerings of HIIT are nearly endless. In short, HIIT consists of a rapid-fire sequence of different exercises, which rotate through different muscle groups and shock the body into shape. This is accomplished through intense bursts of activity followed by a less-intense activity and even complete rest. A HIIT workout could be as simple as sprinting for one minute followed by walking for two minutes, repeating that five times for a 15-minute workout. Of course, running can be substituted or combined with a multitude of other exercises like rowing, biking, jumping jacks, jump rope, sit-ups, push-ups, burpees or lunges. Again, the key components are short bursts of high-intensity exercise, followed by slower activity or rest and repeated intervals. There are numerous benefits to HIIT workouts.

No Gym Necessary
HIIT doesn’t require a gym or expensive workout class. The only constraints to HIIT are time and space. If you can make 30-45 minutes free and find enough space to do a jumping jack or pushup, you’ve got what you need to do HIIT. A 30-minute workout can literally be done in a space the size of a phone booth (crack the door open for air!): 1 minute of sprinting in place, 2 minutes of slow marching in place, repeated 5 times, followed by 1 minute of as many phone booth wall pushups as quickly as possible followed by 2 minutes of a wall plank, repeated 5 times. Voila! Phonebooth HIIT!

No Equipment Necessary
While a bike, jump rope and a row machine would serve as great equipment to do a HIIT workout, they are not required for HIIT. Running, high knees, fast feet and jumping lunges can get that heart pumping just as fast. Again, HIIT is about making your heartbeat fast to burn fat, not about building muscle. So, leave the dumbbells and weights on the side for HIIT. If you can move to get your heartbeat pumping fast, you’ve got the right HIIT idea.

HIIT is ideal for the busy lifestyle
In just 15 minutes of interval training, you can blast away more fat than a slow jog on the treadmill for an hour. Indeed, one popular form of HIIT called Tabata can pump out a major fat burning workout in just 4 minutes. The method of Tabata is to do an exercise for 20 seconds at high intensity followed by 10 seconds of rest. Repeat that 8 times and you have a 4-minute workout. Try it with a jump rope, for example, and you’ll feel your heart beating and get that fat burning. HIIT can be done on a lunch break outside or even in the office with a 15-minute break. In this way, HIIT is incredibly efficient.

HIIT workouts extend beyond the workout
The effect of high-intensity workouts is a great afterburn. As a result of intense exertion, HIIT sends the body repair workshop into overdrive. That means that the fat burning usually continues for a full 24 hours after the workout. In this way, you burn more fat with HIIT than a regular cardio workout.

HIIT is Heart Healthy
The beautiful thing about HIIT is that it trains your heart to build endurance and tolerate longer and harder workouts. Most low impact workouts or casual jogging workouts don’t send the heart into the anaerobic zone. This is where the heart is really working overtime. But HIIT will bring your heart to this zone in the short bursts. That will allow the body to tolerate more frequent and intense workouts.

HIIT trims the fat, not the muscle
Working out often coincides with dieting. And dieting can lead to not only weight loss, but muscle loss as well. This is not the case with HIIT. Studies show that HIIT workouts allow dieters to preserve muscle while burning off the fat.

With the New Year on the horizon, many resolve to watch what they eat and get to the gym. This year, resolve to try HIIT workouts. You’ll watch the weight burn off, the muscle build remain and your heart and mind will thank you for it.