High-intensity interval training

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This article is about the cardiovascular exercise made popular in the 2010s. For the 1970s weight training, see High intensity training.

High-intensity interval training (HIIT), also called high-intensity intermittent exercise (HIIE) or sprint interval training (SIT), is an enhanced form of interval training, an exercise strategy alternating short periods of intense anaerobic exercise with less-intense recovery periods. HIIT is a form of cardiovascular exercise. Usual HIIT sessions may vary from 4–30 minutes. These short, intense workouts provide improved athletic capacity and condition, improved glucose metabolism, and improved fat burning.[1] Compared with other regimens, HIIT may not be as effective for treating hyperlipidemia and obesity, or improving muscle and bone mass. Some researchers also note that HIIT requires "an extremely high level of subject motivation," and question whether the general population could safely or practically tolerate the extreme nature of the exercise regimen.[2]


High-intensity interval training can describe an exercise session composed entirely of HIIT techniques, or as a component of an exercise plan. HIIT exercise sessions generally consist of a warm up period, then several repetitions of high intensity exercise separated by medium intensity exercise for recovery, then a cool down period. The high intensity exercise should be done at near maximum intensity. The medium exercise should be about 50% intensity. The number of repetitions and length of each depends on the exercise, but may be as little as three repetitions with just 20 seconds of intense exercise.[citation needed] The specific exercises performed during the high-intensity portions vary.

There is no specific formula to HIIT. Depending on one's level of cardiovascular development, the moderate-level intensity can be as slow as walking.[3] A common formula involves a 2:1 ratio of work to recovery periods, for example, 30–40 seconds of hard sprinting alternated with 15–20 seconds of jogging or walking.

The entire HIIT session may last between four and thirty minutes, meaning that it is considered to be an excellent way to maximize a workout that is limited on time.[4] Use of a clock or timer is recommended to keep accurate times, number of rounds and intensity.

Peter Coe regimen[edit]

A type of high-intensity interval training with short recovery periods was used in the 1970s by the athletics coach Peter Coe when setting sessions for his son Sebastian Coe. Inspired by the principles propounded by the German coach and university professor Woldemar Gerschler and the Swedish physiologist Per-Olof Åstrand, Coe set sessions involving repeated fast 200 metre runs with only 30 seconds recovery between each fast run.[5]

Tabata regimen[edit]

A version of HIIT was based on a 1996 study[6] by Professor Izumi Tabata (田畑泉) et al. initially involving Olympic speedskaters.[7] The study used 20 seconds of ultra-intense exercise (at an intensity of about 170% of VO2max) followed by 10 seconds of rest, repeated continuously for 4 minutes (8 cycles). The exercise was performed on a mechanically braked cycle ergometer. Tabata called this the IE1 protocol.[8] In the original study, athletes using this method trained 4 times per week, plus another day of steady-state training, and obtained gains similar to a group of athletes who did steady state training (70% VO2max) 5 times per week. The steady state group had a higher VO2max at the end (from 52 to 57 mL/(kg•min)), but the Tabata group had started lower and gained more overall (from 48 to 55 mL/(kg•min)). Also, only the Tabata group had gained anaerobic capacity benefits. It is important to note that in the original study from 1996, participants were disqualified if they could not keep a steady cycling pace of 85RPM for the full 20 seconds of work.

In popular culture, "Tabata training" has now come to refer to a wide variety of HIIT protocols and exercise regimens that may or may not have similar benefits to those found in Tabata's original study.

Gibala regimen[edit]

Professor Martin Gibala and his team at McMaster University in Canada have been researching high-intensity exercise for several years. Their 2009 study on students[9] uses 3 minutes for warming up, then 60 seconds of intense exercise (at 95% of VO2max) followed by 75 seconds of rest, repeated for 8–12 cycles (sometimes referred to as "The Little Method"). Subjects using this method trained 3 times per week obtained gains similar to what would be expected from subjects who did steady state (50–70% VO2max) training five times per week. While still a demanding form of training, this exercise protocol could be used by the general public with nothing more than an average exercise bike.

Gibala's group published a less intense version of their regimen in a 2011 paper in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise. This was intended as a gentler option for sedentary people who had done no exercise for over a year. It included 3 minutes of warm-up, 10 repetitions of 60-second bursts at 60% peak power (80- 95% of heart rate reserve) each followed by 60 seconds of recovery, and then a 5-minute cool-down.[10]

Timmons regimen[edit]

Jamie Timmons, professor of systems biology at the University of Loughborough, is a proponent of a few short bursts of flat-out intensity. In a BBC Horizon programme in February 2012, he put Michael Mosley on an exercise bike regimen consisting of three sets of about 2 minutes of gentle pedalling followed by 20 second bursts of cycling at maximum effort. This was done three times a week for a total of 21 minutes of exercise per week (3 minutes of intense exercise), plus warm-up and recovery time.

Health effects[edit]

Cardiovascular fitness[edit]

A 2015 systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials found that HIIT training and traditional endurance training both lead to significantly improved cardiovascular fitness in healthy adults ages 18-45 but greater improvements in VO2 max were seen in those participating in the HIIT exercise regimen.[11] Another analysis also found that HIIT regimens of one month or longer effectively improve cardiovascular fitness in adolescents and lead to moderate improvements in body composition.[12] Furthermore, a separate systematic review and meta-analysis of seven small randomized controlled trials found that HIIT (defined as four intervals of four minutes at 85-95% of max heart rate with three-minute intervals at 60-70% of max heart rate) was more effective than moderate-intensity continuous training at improving blood vessel function and markers of blood vessel health.[13]

Cardiovascular disease[edit]

A 2015 meta-analysis comparing HIIT to moderate intensity continuous training (MICT) in people with coronary artery disease have found that HIIT leads to greater improvements in VO2 max but that MICT leads to greater reductions in body weight and heart rate.[14] However, a 2014 meta-analysis found that the cardiorespiratory fitness of individuals with chronic cardiovascular or metabolic diseases (including high blood pressure, obesity, heart failure, coronary artery disease, or metabolic syndrome) who completed a HIIT exercise program was nearly double that of individuals who completed a MICT exercise program.[15]

Metabolic effects[edit]

HIIT significantly lowers insulin resistance compared to continuous training or control conditions and leads to modestly decreased fasting blood glucose levels and weight loss compared to those who do not undergo a physical activity intervention.[16]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Laursen PB, Jenkins DG (2002). "The Scientific Basis for High-Intensity Interval Training". Sports Medicine (Review) 32 (1): 53–73. doi:10.2165/00007256-200232010-00003. PMID 11772161. 
  2. ^ Gibala MJ (July 2007). "High-intensity Interval Training: A Time-efficient Strategy for Health Promotion?". Current Sports Med Rep 6 (4): 211–13. PMID 17617995. 
  3. ^ "High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT): The Ultimate Fat Incinerator". 
  4. ^ Van Dusen, Allison (October 20, 2008). "Ten ways to get more from your workout". Forbes. Retrieved December 14, 2008. 
  5. ^ Coe, Sebastian (2013). Running My Life. Hodder. pp. 38, 39. ISBN 978-1-444-73253-5. 
  6. ^ Tabata, Izumi; Nishimura, Kouji; Kouzaki, Motoki; Hirai, Yuusuke; Ogita, Futoshi; Miyachi, Motohiko; Yamamoto, Kaoru (1996). "Effects of moderate-intensity endurance and high-intensity intermittent training on anaerobic capacity and VO2max". Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise 28 (10): 1327–30. doi:10.1097/00005768-199610000-00018. PMID 8897392. 
  7. ^ "Interview with the founder of the world-renowned Tabata Protocol". Ritsumeikan University. Retrieved 30 January 2013. 
  8. ^ Tabata, Izumi; Irisawa, Kouichi; Kouzaki, Motoki; Nishimura, Kouji; Ogita, Futoshi; Miyachi, Motohiko (1997). "Metabolic profile of high intensity intermittent exercises". Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise 29 (3): 390–5. doi:10.1097/00005768-199703000-00015. PMID 9139179. 
  9. ^ Little, J. P.; Safdar, A.; Wilkin, G. P.; Tarnopolsky, M. A.; Gibala, M. J. (2010). "A practical model of low-volume high-intensity interval training induces mitochondrial biogenesis in human skeletal muscle: Potential mechanisms". The Journal of Physiology 588 (6): 1011–22. doi:10.1113/jphysiol.2009.181743. PMC 2849965. PMID 20100740. 
  10. ^ Hood, Melanie S.; Little, Jonathan P.; Tarnopolsky, Mark A.; Myslik, Frank; Gibala, Martin J. (2011). "Low-Volume Interval Training Improves Muscle Oxidative Capacity in Sedentary Adults". Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise 43 (10): 1849–56. doi:10.1249/MSS.0b013e3182199834. PMID 21448086. 
  11. ^ Milanović Z, Sporiš G, Weston M (October 2015). "Effectiveness of High-Intensity Interval Training (HIT) and Continuous Endurance Training for VO2max Improvements: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Controlled Trials". Sports Med (Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis) 45 (10): 1469–81. doi:10.1007/s40279-015-0365-0. PMID 26243014. 
  12. ^ Costigan SA, Eather N, Plotnikoff RC, Taaffe DR, Lubans DR (October 2015). "High-intensity interval training for improving health-related fitness in adolescents: a systematic review and meta-analysis". Br J Sports Med (Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis) 49 (19): 1253–61. doi:10.1136/bjsports-2014-094490. PMID 26089322. 
  13. ^ Ramos JS, Dalleck LC, Tjonna AE, Beetham KS, Coombes JS (May 2015). "The impact of high-intensity interval training versus moderate-intensity continuous training on vascular function: a systematic review and meta-analysis". Sports Med (Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis) 45 (5): 679–92. doi:10.1007/s40279-015-0321-z. PMID 25771785. 
  14. ^ Liou K, Ho S, Fildes J, Ooi SY (July 2015). "High Intensity Interval versus Moderate Intensity Continuous Training in Patients with Coronary Artery Disease: A Meta-analysis of Physiological and Clinical Parameters". Heart Lung Circ (Meta-Analysis). S1443-9506 (15): 01269–X. doi:10.1016/j.hlc.2015.06.828. PMID 26375499. 
  15. ^ Weston KS, Wisloff U, Coombes JS (August 2014). "High-intensity interval training in patients with lifestyle-induced cardiometabolic disease: a systematic review and meta-analysis". Br J Sports Med (Systematic Review & Meta-Analysis) 48 (16): 1227–1234. doi:10.1136/bjsports-2013-092576. PMID 24144531. 
  16. ^ Jelleyman C, Yates T, O'Donovan G, Gray LJ, King JA, Khunti K, Davies MJ (November 2015). "The effects of high-intensity interval training on glucose regulation and insulin resistance: a meta-analysis". Obes Rev (Meta-Analysis) 16 (11): 942–61. doi:10.1111/obr.12317. PMID 26481101. 

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