7 Benefits of High-Intensity Interval Training

Young woman, maybe asian, wearing workout clothes and running up stairs in a park or other pretty outdoor location. She's wearing flyer in nightfall blue and ionic in slate blue and burnt orange.

Summer is here and we’re all trying to maintain our fitness routines. This means hours and hours of cardio, right? Ugh. Not only does that seem overwhelming, time-consuming, and difficult to stick with, but what if there was a way to burn more calories, lose more fat, and improve your cardiovascular fitness level while spending less time in the gym? You’re desperate for a way to get fitter, faster, right? Enter high-intensity interval training, also known as, high-intensity training or HIIT.

For years, I was a middle-of-the-pack long distance runner. I loved a nice, long run; it was always very therapeutic for me and before I became a personal trainer, it was my main mode of exercise. I still enjoy a long run every once in a while, but It wasn’t until I started implementing more high-intensity workouts into my own routine that I really saw a true change in my body: I got leaner and stronger at the same time.

If you’re looking for a way to take your fitness and fat loss to the next level—without spending more time in the gym—then HIIT could be exactly what you’re looking for. To be clear, I am not saying HIIT will be easier, just that it will take less of your time. More appropriately, the HIIT approach to cardio exercise is very physically demanding but, astonishingly, HIIT makes it possible to get more from doing less.

What’s HIIT and How Does It Work?

HIIT is a specialized form of interval training that involves short intervals of maximum-intensity exercise separated by longer intervals of low- to moderate-intensity exercise. In a nutshell, it means doing a number of short bursts of intense exercise with short recovery breaks in between.

Because HIIT involves briefly pushing yourself beyond the upper end of your aerobic exercise zone, it offers several advantages that traditional steady-state exercise (where you keep your heart rate within your aerobic zone) can’t provide. HIIT trains and conditions both your anaerobic and aerobic energy systems. HIIT trains your anaerobic system with brief, all-out efforts; like when you have to push to make it up a hill, sprint the last few hundred yards of a distance race, or run full speed into the end zone to avoid being tackled. They push themselves to the capacity then recover and repeat. This shorter, more intense way of working is just that, and also creates a ton of additional benefits.

7 Benefits of HIIT

1. It burn more calories and fat. HIIT increases the amount of calories you burn during your exercise session and afterward because it increases the length of time it takes your body to recover from each exercise session. It also causes metabolic adaptations that enable you to use more fat as fuel under a variety of conditions, which can improve your athletic endurance as well as your fat-burning potential.

2. It preserves muscle. Anyone who has been on a diet knows that it’s hard to not lose muscle mass along with fat. And even worse, steady state cardio seems to encourage muscle loss through the production of cortisol. A study published in the Journal of Obesity showed that both weight training and HIIT workouts allow dieters to preserve their hard-earned muscle, while ensuring most of the weight loss comes from fat stores. Keep the muscle, burn the fat. Perfect!

3. It keeps you feeling young. Not only does HIIT beat conventional cardio as the most effective and efficient form of exercise, it also provides health benefits you simply cannot get from regular aerobic exercise, such as a tremendous boost in human growth hormone (HGH). This is great news since HGH is not only responsible for increased caloric burn, but also slows down the aging process, making you younger both inside and out. It’s almost like a metabolic fountain of youth.

4. It doesn’t require equipment. Running, biking, jump roping, and rowing all work great for HIIT, but you don’t need any equipment to get it done. High knees, fast feet, or anything plyometric like jumping lunges work just as well to get your heart rate up fast. In fact, Fitbit Coach is chock full of awesome workout that will help you feel the HIIT burn. Not a member? Here’s a quick HIIT workout you can do virtually anywhere: Perform 60 seconds of fast, high knees, followed by a 30 second rest. Repeat 6 times.

5. It boosts your meatbolism. Several of the genes affected by an acute bout of exercise happen to be the very same genes involved in fat metabolism. Another study in the Journal of Cell Metabolism showed that when you exercise, your body almost immediately experiences genetic activation that increases the production of fat-busting (lipolytic) enzymes. Everyone wants to be a more efficient calorie burner, even at rest, so after you’ve completed a HIIT workout, you’ve not only burned a ton of calories, but also sped up your metabolism. Win-win!

6. It save time. Your life is really packed. It’s always a challenge to squeeze in a workout. Well, “no time to exercise” is no longer an excuse. These quick, efficient sessions leave you with more time to enjoy life while feeling more fit. Remember: You can use Fitbit Coach anywhere, just download the app, and boom, you can try some amazing HIIT moves. It’s right there in your pocket.

7. It’s adaptable. The HIIT approach to cardio exercise is definitely physically demanding, but it can be modified to different levels of fitness. That said, if you have any cardiovascular problems or other health concerns that limit your ability to exercise at very intense levels, or if you are relatively new to aerobic exercise or not already in good shape, HIIT may not be for you—at least for now. If you have any doubts or concerns about whether it might be safe for you, check in with your medical professional before trying HIIT.

HIIT’s just one of many ways you can get fit and healthy. Give HIIT a try today to change up your current workout, or if you’re looking in inject a quick hit of fitness into a jam-packed schedule.

Judi Brown is a firecracker single mom of two small boys, marathon runner, extreme ultra-distance hiking adventurer, dancer, spinning instructor, softball player, choreographer, and gymnast. Judi studied Physical Education at the University of South Florida and received a Bachelors of Science degree while competing as an NCAA athlete. Judi rocked the fitness industry for 12 years as a certified personal trainer, group fitness instructor, TRX trainer, fitness writer, and on-camera fitness personality. She’s designed and starred in her own fitness videos and worked with some of the biggest names in fitness today, including Tony Horton of P90X, and Dolvette Quince of the Biggest Loser.

34 Comments   Join the Conversation

34 CommentsLeave a comment

  • Still new to Fitbit Charge 2 … When I do a 30 min on elliptical, I burn about 330 -350 Calories keep my heart rate for 1st 10 min at approx 120 BPM. Then for the next 20 min I take it up to 130 BPM. (note 59 years old) When I do an HIIT on the same machine 2 min rest and 45 burst (160-170 BMP during end of burst) I only burn about 200-250 Calories. It’s not working accordingly?

      • I am new with Charge 2, been using it for over 2 months now and it really is making a big difference on my fitness journey. I’ve been reading a lot of comments since i recently joined some Fitbit groups. I was amazed by how other users burned more calories with lesser steps and shorter exercises. I know, calorie burned depends on age, weight, etc. I spin for 20 mins and my bpm reached a max of 167 and burned 130-150. Am i using my tracker correctly? I am 46, 109 lbs.

  • As far as I can see my Charge HR is useless for HIIT sessions.
    The heart rate graph on the fitbit dashboard shows pulse rates averaged over 5 minute increments of time.
    So after a 3 minute warm-up (to about 130 BPM) I ramp up the effort to get to 160+ BPM. After about 2 minutes my pulse is back down to the 130s and I go again. I do this 4 times with a 4 minute cool-down at the end, 15 minutes total.
    The fitbit dashboard doesn’t any data that is of use to me.

  • I am trying to get this Fitbit to work for me, but all I get is orders what to . Nobody wants to know where I am at or where to go, which at this time is to add the following exercises on my new Fitbit: weightlifting, yoga, which I have done for over 10 years, as well as circuit training which I started last year. On your website I get: changes won’t appear on your tracker etc
    For hours now
    And I don’t need help with my weight or diet. Thank you. I

    • Hi Rita. Our apologies for the delay. Please make sure you follow these instructions to add weights and Yoga as exercise shortcuts found here. Please make sure you sync after adding the shortcuts so you can access them on your Fitbit tracker. If you’re having issues syncing, check out this Fitbit help article for troubleshooting tips. Let us know if you need anymore help!

  • Hi I’ve had a Fitbit basicfor 6 mo then upgraded to the charge hr,
    Loved it but my battery wasn’t lasting and just kept nit keep the charge and bracelet broke !! But ur company is absolutely awesome and sent my a new one we’ll still didn’t keep up accurately, steps Hikeing just wasn’t cutting it So I upgraded to a new a Fitbit charge 2 omg what a whole different experience so love it it was my Xmas present to myself!!! The love for my Fitbit is just that love them but wondering about swimming I do and it’s not water proof!! Are u come it out with one the can work in pool just swimming laps?? If so would love to know when cuz I would love it!! I’ve gotten 10 friends so excited about fitbits and they all love how and what it does❤❤❤thank your company ur the very best

  • FitStar doesnt have (yet) a HIIT program. I have been using the app for some months and love it. Im in the strength program.

    When will the HIIT program come to fitStar?

  • I received my Fitbit as a Christmas present from my son. I love it.
    I am 60 years old and last April started power walking on a treadmill. I’m now can easily do 10 miles in 2:45 with incline between 3-15. I do this everyday to music slowing down between songs. Is this considered HIIT.
    I have had several trainers and gym personnel approach me about doing videos or classes. They are astonished at what I do but no more than I am. I have no idea why, at the age of sixty and never doing any running or even been to a gym, can do this. Would love some advice and feedback from an expert.

  • 58 years old and something of an expert on exercise and dieting, but with the downfall of having zero willpower I find I’m still struggling to achieve my desired weight..That is until I bought the Fitbit Charge 2!
    Wow, I love it! I’m very competitive and it’s made me determined to get my 100% activity score and my 12,000 steps every day, and to stay in the green zone with food intake etc, there’s so much data to study and features, it’s like a personal trainer on my wrist keeping me in check!
    Best thing I’ve EVER bought and have recommended it to all my friends 😀

  • Thank you I wish fitbit would a car charger so when I’m on
    The go I can just charge in my car.

    • Most cars have a USB outlet. Can you not plug your charge cord into that. Also I have a emergency power sorce I carry. It also has USB outlets for charging phones and pads, why not the Fitbit as well?

  • I would love this feature, but why can’t I set a warm up time? Who does HIIT without any warm up?

  • Love the interval training on the charge 2. 10×2min 1:30 rec.. One of my favs. Works fine with the vibration promps

  • High-Intensity Interval Training(HIIT) is the combination of short and high-intensity bursts of physical-jerks, with gentle, and transient recovery periods. You can do this burst drilling anywhere without any fancy exercise equipment . I think this interval training is the secret to the higher performance of elite athletes. Well, anti-aging, boosted metabolism, improved muscles tone, controlled hormone balance, greater cardio conditioning, increased fat loss- are some of the major positive global effects of endurance training on the body. So, I don’t think it will be wise enough to continue the physical regime without this exertion.

  • I use the interval timer for my long runs…any way to configure this I can see my pace during resting and moving times?

    • I synchronize with Strava, all gps based exercises of my Ionic go there. In there I see exactly how fast I was in speed diagram and what my bpm was in fast and rest sessions. But not specific per period unless you do 400 metres or 1 km at least during fast

  • Thanks for the great resource information you provide.

  • How do I determine and track the body fat %. The fitbit is reccomending 19%, but not information on how to figure out what it is.

  • I am I started a 45 min cross fit but my Fitbit charge 2 is not recognizing the exercises is there any way a can get it to recognize it

  • I love it that fit bit has an interval timer. However the tiny little buzz is not very effective. The next update needs to have a stronger longer buzz

  • I just deleted in the Intervalltraining section the break part and I am not able to get it back. do you have any idea, how to fix this? I want to have intervals of 50 seconds working and 10 seconds break time.

  • Can a new beginning countdown feature be introduced for the HIIT timer. I need like 5 seconds to go from starting the timer on my watch to getting in position to start my circuit. Just kind of annoying that I have to set the rest period as my move time and visa versa

  • I?m impressed, I have to admit. Rarely do I encounter a
    blog that?s both equally educative and entertaining, and let
    me tell you, you have hit the nail on the head. The issue is an issue that too few men and women are speaking intelligently
    about. Now i’m very happy that I stumbled across this in my
    search for something relating to this.

  • My husband, who has always loved fitness, bought me a charge 2 Fitbit last year and it has transformed me into someone who actually enjoys HIIT classes. The Fitbit has encouraged me so much and has been a great motivator. I initially wanted to get plenty of steps and would ensure that I managed 5, 000 then 10,000 but usually do more as I am a dog- walker now after years of woking in secondary schools. I go to a 30 minute HIIT session 3 times per week and feel far fitter. By the way, I was 60 last week but I know I am much fitter than many of my relatives of the same age and younger. I now have the Versa which I asked my husband and daughters to buy me for my 60th birthday and I love it even more. The HIIT classes are giving me the muscle strength which I know we need to keep as we get older. Also, I believe, women need to pay particular attention to the loss of bone mass after the menopause and HIIT classes helps with that too.

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