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Should You Be Doing A HIIT Workout?

HIIT workouts—that’s high-intensity interval training—have gotten a lot of buzz for some time now. That’s because you can burn serious calories in a short amount of time (read: buh-bye super-long gym sessions).

The gist: If you go all-out on a particular workout or exercise for 30, 60, or 90 seconds, recover for twice as long, and then move on to the next set (and repeat!), you’ll blast fat, boost endurance, and tone your body. (HIIT workouts often have a 1:2 ratio of work to recovery.)

This kind of high-intensity movement is anything but easy, but that’s the whole idea: You’ll work harder for shorter amounts of time and your work will pay off.

When executed properly, the benefits of HIIT are abundant:

You’ll burn serious amounts of calories.

“It’s like city driving versus highway driving,” says Pete McCall, C.S.C.S., a San Diego-based personal trainer. “Highway driving is like steady state cardio—you keep the heart rate at a consistent level the entire time; it conserves energy. City driving is HIIT—a lot of starting and stopping uses a lot more gas.”

Alternating between high-intensity work intervals and lower-intensity active recovery intervals burns more calories because accelerating and decelerating is tiring, he explains. “HIIT workouts challenge the cardiorespiratory and circulatory systems to bring oxygen into the body and deliver it to the working muscles,” McCall says. “The body consumes oxygen at a rate of five calories of energy per one liter of oxygen. Any exercise mode that increases the demand and consumption for oxygen can improve overall caloric expenditure.”

Related: Let’s Set The Record Straight About Fasted Cardio

According to the Journal of Obesity, HIIT workouts are not only linked to weight loss, but they produce significant increases in aerobic and anaerobic fitness.

The calorie burn doesn’t stop once you stop moving.

There’s actually a scientific term for it: EPOC (excess post-exercise oxygen consumption). “It’s when your body continues to burn calories for a period of time, even after your workout is over,” says Holland. And with high-intensity intervals, you get the added benefit of burning calories long after your workout is in the books.

Switching between slow and steady cardio and HIIT adds variety. This is hugely important to any successful exercise routine. Says Holland: “Variation in exercise is not only essential for continued physiological adaptations, but it also has positive psychological benefits as well.”

According to a study published in the journal, Neuropsychiatric Disease and Treatment, HIIT has been shown to have positive effects on patients with anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues. You can kiss all that stress goodbye!

The workouts are short and sweet.

“The number one reason people give for not exercising is lack of time, especially a full hour,” says Tom Holland, C.S.C.S., an exercise physiologist and author of Beat the Gym. “People find it much easier, therefore, to squeeze a quick HIIT workout into their busy lifestyles.”

Most people do a 20-minute HIIT workout, although some people love super-fast workouts, like Tabata.

…And they’re fun, too.

HIIT will certainly kick your butt, but it’s more fun than slogging away on a treadmill. “Most people get bored quickly with doing the same, long, slow cardio workouts,” says Holland. “HIIT sessions provide a welcome change, both mentally as well as physically. You also feel a unique sense of accomplishment when you complete a challenging HIIT session.”

One of the very best things about HIIT, though? You don’t need any equipment to complete a workout, says Holland (as you’ll see below).

Related: 13 Burpees That’ll Blow Your Mind (And Torch Serious Calories)

Is HIIT Right For You?

“Almost anyone can benefit from a HIIT workout,” says McCall. That is, he explains, people without pre-existing medical conditions or orthopedic injuries. (Which means if you have sprains, strains, or muscle tears, or long-term issues like heart disease or high blood pressure, you might want to hold off and talk to your doctor first.)

That’s because, by definition, HIIT is—well—high-intensity. “Therefore, it’s challenging to both the musculoskeletal and cardiovascular systems,” he says. You don’t want to overdo it out of the gate only to wind up injured, hurt, or worse—in danger.

Related: 3 People Share How They Dropped Over 60 Pounds—And Kept It Off

Want to try your hand at HIIT? Take on one of the below workouts from Holland.

20-Minute Bodyweight HIIT Workout #1


  • 3 minutes of easy cardio (run in place or do jumping jacks)

Circuit (repeat five times):

  • 20 seconds of burpees
  • 40 seconds recovery (jog in place)
  • 20 seconds of pop squats
  • 40 seconds recovery (jog in place)
  • 20 seconds of jump lunges
  • 40 seconds recovery (jog in place)

Cool down:

  • 2 minutes of easy cardio (run in place or do jumping jac

20-Minute Cardio HIIT Workout #2


  • 5 minutes of easy cardio (run in place or do jumping jacks)

Circuit (repeat 10 times):

  • 20 seconds all-out sprint
  • 40 seconds walk or jog to recover

Cool down:

  • 5 minutes of easy cardio (run in place or do jumping jacks)

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