How Often Should I HIIT?

It’s no secret that HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) is one of the hottest trends in fitness today. According to the American College of Sports Medicine HIIT has been one of the top trends for the past 3 years! In short HIIT training involves shorter bursts of high intensity exercise followed by periods of rest. Participants aim to get their heart rate above 85% of their age predicted max (220-your age) and maintain this for 30-60 seconds. This is followed up by a similar period of rest and the cycle repeats. The theory is that you do more work in less time thereby making your exercise more efficient!

Though plenty of guidelines exist for traditional exercise few are available for HIIT. Recently  education and programming provider Les Mills set out to get some answers. Specifically they wanted to know how much HIIT training should a person do each week and was there a point of diminishing returns - where more exercise does not equal more results. The answer may surprise you.

The CDC,  Center for Disease Control and Prevention, has set the guidelines that healthy adults should aim for 150 minutes of moderate exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise each week. For additional benefit adults should increase these amounts to 300 minutes of moderate exercise or 150 minutes of vigorous exercise. Moderate is defined as exercise where ‘your breathing increases but you are not out of breath’ or ‘ you can carry on a conversation but you can’t sing’. In general this correlates to 50-70% of Max HR.  Vigorous exercise is defined as ‘your breathing is deep and rapid’  and ‘you can’t say more than a few words without pausing for breath’. This correlates to 70-85% of Max HR.

Thankfully the Les Mills Study put some real numbers behind HIIT guidelines which are easy to obtain given the prevalence of heart rate monitoring in today’s fitness landscape. According to the Study  the amount of time one should spend performing High Intensity Exercise is just 30-40 minutes per week! For the purposes of the study High Intensity is defined as a heart rate over 90% of Max.  So if 30-40 minutes is optimal, more is better, right? Wrong!

The study went on to find that after 40 minutes of High Intensity Exercise your body may not respond positively. The body may become chronically fatigued and injury prone. This is commonly referred to as overtraining - a condition prevalent among high intensity exercise participants. Essentially the positive effects of exercise are diminished.

The natural question would be, if we are supposed to get 150-300 minutes of exercise per week yet only 30-40 of it should be High Intensity what should we be doing the rest of the time? This is the time we should spend performing, moderate intensity cardio, along with  strength and core training exercises. An additional 3-4 workouts of this variety per week will ensure that you hit the recommended guidelines.

At The Abs Company we believe that Fitness Changes Lives! The facts are undeniable. Understanding the types of exercise what will give us these benefits is the key. Additionally you have to find what works best for you and make sure that you enjoy it!  We’ve been CHANGING LIVES FROM THE CORE for over 20 years and we’d love to help you along your fitness journey as well.