Time to get fit: a guide to HIIT


Sarah Berry
Published: May 24, 2016 – 11:22PM

HIIT is hot right now, at least that’s where exercise science is at.

It’s not hard to see why scientists – and people interested in fitness – are excited.

HIIT (high-intensity interval training) is as fast as it is famous right now and it’s been getting faster.

There’s the 45 minute work-out, popularised by F45, 30-minute classes, then, more recently, HIIT has accelerated into the seven-minute workout, the four-minute Tabata-based workout, the impossibly athletic 30-second workout and the recently researched one-minute workout.

The idea for all of them is the same: all the benefits of exercise are condensed in one extremely fell swoop.

“My whole philosophy on HIIT is you’re giving your body a good blast,” says Professor John Hawley, director, Centre for Exercise and Nutrition, Mary MacKillop Institute for Health Research, Australian Catholic University.

Does it matter which version or length of time you do?

Emmanuelle Statamakis, Associate Professor of exercise, health and physical activity sport sciences at the University of Sydney, says that, presently, the research is not there to say one form is better than another.

“I do not think that anyone can make any assertions about comparisons of all these different HIIT regimes that have been published or publicised,” Statamakis says.

“In the absence of a study comparing the HIIT regimes … I would speculate that regimes like the 10-20-30 or the seven-minute ones will produce better results in the long term because they combine aerobic and anaerobic processes and higher total energy expenditure than the one-minute regime.”

Hawley adds that shorter intervals can be easier to cope with psychologically.

“If you do 30 seconds or four minutes, it’s probably not going to make a huge difference,” Hawley says. “I can’t tell you that x is better than y, any stimulation is better than none. It depends what the individual likes to do.”

Whatever will get you moving is what will be the better workout.

“They all seem to work well to some extent and it is all down to factors like people’s time availability and individual preferences,” says Statamakis, adding that his concern is that it may be a struggle for sedentary people to go the distance with HIIT.

“Unfortunately the health benefits of exercise are transient and unless we come up with strategies to make exercise attractive/desirable for the masses of sedentary people and maximise the adherence to it there will be very little (if any) public health benefit,” Statamakis says. “We should be mindful that this kind of training (HIIT) appeals mostly to relatively young individuals who are perhaps already active and fit.

“As it stands, very-high-intensity exertion will be too unpleasant and will not appeal to the large majority of sedentary middle-aged and older individuals who are most in need for lifestyle improvements because they are at imminent risk of developing chronic disease and even dying prematurely.”

He points out that about 50 per cent of Australian adults do not meet the guidelines of 2.5 hours of brisk walking a week and nine out of 10 do not meet the twice-weekly strength-training guideline.

How to address this shortfall is a challenge many in the industry are attempting, particularly those researching HIIT, which is attractive given so many people (rightly or wrongly) claim that time constraints prevent them from meeting the guidelines.

Hawley points out that HIIT does not have to involve sprinting or working out like a maniac and still get the “afterburn” effect where the metabolic rate after exercise remains elevated.

“Walking briskly up a hill – that’s HIT for 90 per cent of the population,” he says, reminding that we can start slow(er) and build up – even with HIIT.

“I would even say in case of those who are overweight and obese, just walk up the stairs – that’s enough to get most people out of breath.

“You just need to break inactivity patterns.”

How long have you got?


One study found that short-term interval training using a 10-minute session involving one minute of hard exercise, three times per week, stimulated physiological changes linked to improved health in overweight adults

HOW TO DO IT: 2 min warm-up, 3×20 s all-out cycling efforts against a load corresponding to 0.05 kg/kg body mass, separated by 2 min of low-intensity cycling and 3 minute cool-down.


The seven-minute set of 12 exercises, designed to work the entire body. “The exercise order allows for a total body exercise to significantly increase the heart rate while the lower, upper, and core exercises function to maintain the increased heart rate while developing strength,” the workout’s creators said.

The set, which they suggest repeating two to three times, is possible to be performed anywhere, without special equipment.

HOW TO DO IT: Perform each exercise for 30 seconds, working at about 80 per cent capacity and with 10-second breaks between each exercise, for a total of seven minutes. The exercises? Star jumps; wall sits (back against the wall with the knees bent at a 90-degree angle); push-ups; abdominal crunches; chair step-ups; squats; tricep dips; plank; running high-knees; push-up rotations and side plank.


One study from 2013 found that those who exercise to 90 per cent capacity (you should be able to say single words but be too puffed for sentences), for four-minute bursts, three times a week improved endurance, metabolic and cardiovascular health.

HOW TO DO IT: You can cycle, run or do stairs hard-out for four-minutes. The full program is to repeat this four times with three minutes of slow walking between, then a short cool-down.


New research shows that in just one minute we can lower blood pressure and power-up energy cells.

HOW TO DO IT: The trick for gaining the benefits is to go hell-for-leather for that minute. Again, it doesn’t really matter what form of hell-for-leather you do, but Hawley says the biggest bang for buck will be when people can use largest muscle mass (i.e. upper and lower body) at the same time.

This story was found at: http://www.smh.com.au/lifestyle/diet-and-fitness/time-to-get-fit-a-guide-to-hiit-20160518-goxmgm.html





‘Earth-shattering’ study reveals the best exercise for anti-ageing


Sarah Berry
Published: March 28, 2017 – 12:31PM

The secret to keeping your body youthful may be found in the way you move.

A new study has found that high-intensity interval training (HIIT) can essentially stop cellular ageing in its tracks and, in some cases, rejuvenate the cells that repair damage in the body.

For the study, researchers from the Mayo Clinic took 36 men and 36 women split into younger (aged between 18 and 30) and older (aged between 65 and 80) age groups.

The participants were then assigned a three-month program of HIIT, strength training or a combination of the two.

They already knew that both HIIT and strength training provided enormous health benefits to our bodies, they just didn’t know exactly how or why, or which was better.

So, to understand the way exercise effects us at a molecular level, the researchers then took biopsies from the participants’ thigh muscles and compared them with samples from sedentary volunteers.

The strength-training group predictably saw the greatest improvements in muscle mass, but the findings that have been described as “earth shattering” were at a cellular level in the HIIT group.

Mitochondria are the “powerhouses” of our cells, responsible for creating more than 90 per cent of the energy needed by the body to sustain life and support organ function. Their function typically declines with age.

However, in the HIIT group, the mitochondrial functioning improved by 69 per cent among the older participants, and by 49 per cent among the younger group.

As well as improving their insulin levels, heart and lung health, some in the high-intensity biking group also saw a reversal of the age-related decline in mitochondrial function and proteins needed for building muscle.

The research provided an explanation for the many health benefits of exercise said the lead senior author, Sreekumaran Nair.

“Based on everything we know, there’s no substitute for these exercise programs when it comes to delaying the ageing process,” says Nair, of the study published in the journal Cell. “These things we are seeing cannot be done by any medicine.”

He adds: “If people have to pick one exercise, I would recommend high-intensity interval training, but I think it would be more beneficial if they could do three to four days of interval training and then a couple days of strength training.”

Emmanuel Stamatakis of the Charles Perkins Centre at the University of Sydney says it is a “fascinating piece of research”.

“This not only sheds light on how high-intensity interval exercise works at the cellular level, but [also] on the potential of vigorous exertion in general,” says Stamatakis, who was not involved with the research.

It also shows what is happening beneath the sweat that makes HIIT more beneficial to our bodies than other forms of exercise. Which aspect of HIIT is responsible for such dramatic changes, however, is still an unknown.

“Assuming that the key attribute of HIIT is the vigorous intensity that challenges the human physiology to make rapid adaptations, this research supports well what we saw recently in a large epidemiologic study where even one to two sessions per week of  predominantly sport/exercise of vigorous intensity were associated with substantial all-cause, CVD and cancer mortality benefits,” Stamatakis explains.

“These benefits were comparable with meeting the physical activity recommendations by doing regular physical activity of mostly moderate intensity.”

Now the question is whether HIIT is right for everyone. Given how few of us manage to meet the recommendations (about 50 per cent of Australian adults do not meet the guidelines of 2.5 hours of brisk walking a week and nine out of 10 do not meet the twice-weekly strength-training guideline), Stamatakis remains unsure.

“There is a big debate as to whether HIIT is the way to go for better population health, but it is certain that it has a time and a place,” he says. “Although not every physically inactive person would be willing or able to join a HITT program, this new piece of research highlights that in addition to  public health messages like ‘move as often as possible, a little is better than nothing’, we need to also add ‘aim to huff and puff sometimes’.”

This might be as simple as taking the stairs whenever you can – both a form of incidental and HIIT exercise.

“For many people, stair climbing will involve bouts of high-intensity activity lasting one or more minutes, and if this is repeated regularly enough in everyday life it could potentially improve fitness and other aspects of cardiovascular and metabolic health quite rapidly,” Stamatakis says.

And of course, it will keep us young.

“There are substantial basic science data to support the idea that exercise is critically important to prevent or delay ageing,” says Nair, who plans to look at the effect of exercise on other tissues in the body. “There’s no substitute for that.”

This story was found at: http://www.smh.com.au/executive-style/fitness/earthshattering-study-reveals-the-best-exercise-for-antiageing-20170328-gv7yx2.html