As the ABC launches the Your Move campaign to help Australians explore their health and fitness journey, journalist Marnie Vinall is hitting the road to try out some of the growing exercise trends across the country.
As one of the most popular fitness trends, I thought I’d do a high-intensity interval training (HIIT) bench test.
- HIIT sessions involve short, intense bouts of exercise at maximum effort, with short recovery times
- Sessions include exercises such as tuck jumps, sit-ups, triceps dips and lunges
- Classes are often available at gyms and are promoted as convenient and effective.
It wouldn’t be my first rodeo with high intensity exercises.
During Melbourne’s six lockdowns, I went through a YouTube HIIT dance phase, where I squatted and jumped to Hamilton and Disney songs, blindly following the instructions of a fitness YouTuber.
But it would be my first live group class – a class where I couldn’t decide whether to skip moves or exercise on my own, or sign out early feeling like I already had some. done enough.
This time, I would have nowhere to hide.
Since my local gym already offers these types of classes, I decided it would be a safe and convenient bet to try out the popular exercise format.
But first I reached out to John Hawley, director of the Mary MacKillop Institute for Health Research at Australian Catholic University, to ask what HIIT was all about.
“High-intensity training and interval training have been around for years for athletes, but it’s only recently become popular for general health,” he said.
The idea behind it is “very short, high-intensity bouts of exercise” followed by short periods of rest.
For example, 10 minutes of high intensity work with one minute of recovery between each set for 20 minutes.
“Now what is high intensity? Well, it’s something you can only do for a minute and then you have to stop,” Dr Hawley said.
This involves exercises such as tuck jumps, planks, squat jumps, jumping jacks, sit-ups, triceps dips and lunges – all aimed at getting your heart rate up to 80%.
Dr. Hawley told me that these exercises had cardiovascular benefits because the heart rate was greatly increased, while increasing the strength of the muscles used from the tension or resistance placed on them.
“You really get what you pay for,” he said.
“You apply a very powerful stimulus to reshape the cardiovascular and muscular system.”
Additionally, various research has linked HIIT to better cardiovascular and metabolic outcomes, including improved physical fitness, weight loss, and improved blood pressure and inflammatory markers.
So I headed to the gym for a late afternoon HIIT class to see how I would go with these short bursts of high intensity followed by – what I’m guessing for me on my first attempt – sucking fiercely oxygen.
The class was divided into three sections with drink breaks in between. Each section was about 15 minutes long and packed with 45-second bursts of exercises, ranging from high knees and butt kicks to burpees, squat holds and planks.
I started out with enough confidence, grabbing a weight to hold during lunges, then jogging in place between exercises, but it didn’t take long for fatigue to set in. About 20 minutes later I lost weight and just tried to keep up and get through the pain.
Although 45 seconds never really felt longer than when doing glutes or burpees interspersed with push-ups. I was grateful for the short breaks between exercises.
I was dreading another set of squat holds when the instructor said, “You did it! and guided the room through a series of stretches before letting us go. These included runner’s lunges, pectoral, hamstring and quad stretches, and child’s pose to release the back.
I was flushed and sweaty but happy with my efforts. Time passed quickly and I could see what Dr. Hawley was talking about when he said it was an effective form of exercise. My whole body, along with my cardiovascular system, felt like I had exercised.
So, I brought my shaky legs home, very slowly descending the stairs on my way out, and jumped straight into a hot salt bath as a reward.
Dr Hawley said that for non-professional athletes, refueling doesn’t need a lot of focus, but a big meal and plenty of water should do the trick.
Also, he would recommend not just taking HIIT classes, but combining them with other forms of training, such as endurance-type exercises like swimming, running, or cycling. And always try to cool down to help remove lactic acid from the body and speed up recovery.
For now, I’ll just focus on recovery sleep.
What is HIIT?
HIIT stands for High Intensity Interval Training, where participants perform short bursts of explosive exercise at maximum effort with very short rest periods in between – traditionally around 20 seconds, 10 seconds, although these timings change and may extend up to one minute or slightly longer.
These periods of explosive exercise are done under anaerobic conditions, which essentially means “without oxygen”. This means you can’t do it for as long as aerobic exercise.
As a result, exercise sessions of this type normally last about 30 minutes.
This type of exercise burns glucose and creates a buildup of lactic acid.
How much does a course cost?
HIIT classes are often combined with a gym membership or as part of a six or eight week pack, which can cost between $150 and $200.
Where can I do HIIT?
Gyms that offer HIIT classes are quite common. Simply search for HIIT to find the nearest gym or to find a class you like.
Alternatively, a personal trainer may offer HIIT classes, just check their website.
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