Have you ever been engaged in an exercise program that made you feel so good, you couldn’t wait to go back for more?
While some people may say that no such program exists, that exercise is never both fun and effective, those who engage in High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) insist that they know differently!
In fact, if you look at the numbers surrounding HIIT, you’ll quickly see that this particular way of working out has unquestionably become one of the top exercise methods today. And there’s a good reason for that…
When it comes to explaining the popularity of High Intensity Interval Training, there are a number of factors. Let’s take a look.
HIIT by Numbers
HIIT was so popular in 2014, that USA Today declared it one of the “Top Two Fitness Trends” of the year, holding this slot with basic bodyweight exercises like push-ups and sit-ups.
Then, two years later, the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) affirmed that HIIT was still going strong as it held the third slot in top fitness trends for 2016, beat out only by wearable technology like fitness trackers and heart rate monitors.
Although HIIT has become more mainstream in recent years and gone from strength to strength, interestingly it is not actually a newly created exercise regimen, such as Zumba and TRX for example.
The truth is, it has actually been around for years. A century even!
Case in point: Two researchers from the University of Mexico – Micah Zuhl Ph.D. and Len Kravitz Ph.D. shared that Olympic long-distance runner Hannes Kolemainen was using HIIT training methods to prepare for this top competition way back in 1912!
For something so effective for so many years, why did it stay ‘secret’ or hidden from the wider exercise world for so long?
HIIT really didn’t start to emerge (or re-emerge) in the workout scene until the 1990s, when Izumi Tabata, head of the Sports and Health Science Facility at Ritsumeikan University in Japan, created Tabata HIIT, also commonly known as the Tabata Protocol.
The success of this protocol not only brought HIIT back, but it catapulted it to one of the top exercise regimens slots. A quick look at how the top high-intensity fitness brands, such as CrossFit, are faring, can help emphasize the fact that someone had struck gold with the introduction of HIIT to the masses.
But what is it that makes HIIT still so popular and the reason that so many people are still making it one of their top exercise methods of choice?
Why HIIT Has Had Such an Increase in Popularity
According to the American College of Sports Medicine, one of the main reasons HIIT has risen to its huge level of understanding and popularity is because it “can easily be modified for people of all fitness levels and special conditions.” – meaning that we can tinker with intensity and tailor-fit it to our clients and trainees.
Regardless of the workout difficulty level, people who are new to working out will find that HIIT provides some great results right from the get-go, just because of that special ingredient that is intensity.
This is also true for people who have already spent time working out in low-intensity settings: the transition is a form of “positive shock” for many – as the introduction of intensity produces a different, often superior kind of stimulus compared to traditionalist training programs.
In short, regardless of where you are on your fitness journey, adding HIIT to your current regimen is an interesting option to consider. HIIT principles are versatile enough to be adapted to suit any kind of activity, from walking to swimming. Intensity is a component that can be introduced to any type of functional movement.
And of course, there’s the fact that HIIT has been found to offer a large number of physical benefits aside from weight and fat loss. These include lowering blood pressure, maintaining healthier cholesterol levels and improving insulin sensitivity.
So how does HIIT compare to other exercise methods? Why should you put yourself through these grueling HIIT workouts?
HIIT vs Other Exercise Methods
Many studies have been conducted in this area and, unsurprisingly, a number of them have found positive results.
For instance, one 2016 study published in PLOS One involved 31 obese females, some of whom were assigned to HIIT exercises for five weeks and the remainder of whom were to engage in moderate to vigorous intensity training that was more continuous in nature.
While both groups were able to reduce their body fat and total body weight, the obese women who were in the HIIT group reported that they had more fun while doing it. And where there is more fun there is more enjoyment and commitment.
This set of participants also appreciated that HIIT was a more time-efficient exercise method, which meant that they had to spend fewer hours in the gym, giving them more time to take care of their other responsibilities, relax, or spend time with family and friends.
Additionally this type of training can be performed solo or in a group/class setting. Whether you like to workout alone or find it more motivational to exercise with others, HIIT makes it possible to do both.
To Sum Up
The HIIT industry is booming, and there’s a perfectly good explanation for it.
Exploring and tinkering around with the idea of adding HIIT to your current fitness routine can potentially offer many benefits that are physical and mental in nature. It can also really spice up your training and help break the mould when you’re entrenched in various daunting strength programs.
The group-fitness facet of HIIT, is also another appealing aspect that’s worth considering and introducing, especially to people who are a little more reserved about the whole idea of getting into fitness.
Explaining the popularity of High Intensity Interval Training comes down to: It works, it’s engaging and enjoyable, it is time efficient and practical.
Now the only question is: Where will it go from here? It’ll be interesting to see!
Connect with WatchFit expert Ina Gutowska