High intensity interval training is one of the most popular forms of cardio. It enables you to burn more calories in less time than other forms of exercise, and can keep you motivated throughout the duration of a vigorous workout. A growing body of evidence suggests that these short but intense workouts may be more even more efficient than longer cardio sessions.

High intensity intervals

High intensity interval training (HIIT) consists of pushing yourself all-out for a short burst, then slowing down the intensity to a recovery interval before repeating. An example could include sprinting to your limit for a short period of time, before slowing down into a jog, then repeating. Slowing down for a recovery interval will allow you to catch your breath and recuperate so that you’re ready to repeat the high intensity workout.



You can vary the high intensity and the recovery intervals according to your current fitness level. If you’re newly starting out you’ll benefit from longer recovery intervals, whereas if you’ve been training for a while, you’ll need shorter recovery intervals in order to benefit. Goals are another dictating factor: those looking to burn fat will benefit more from shorter recovery intervals than those trying to build muscle.

Improved aerobic fitness levels

One of the benefits of HIIT is that it can significantly boost your endurance levels in a short period of time. A study by the American College of Sports Medicine revealed that as little as two weeks of interval training is equivalent to six to eight weeks of endurance training. Another benefit of HIIT is that it’s a great metabolism booster. Research has shown that your body will continue to burn calories even after your workout is over as it recuperates from the intensive exercise.

Incorporating interval training

The good news is that HIIT training can be performed anywhere, using a wide range of cardio machines. Even if you don’t have access to a gym, you can participate in HIIT cardio by running outdoors or with a skipping rope. Sprinting up a long flight of stairs before walking down, then repeating, is another challenging form of HIIT.


A good starting point for beginners is to push yourself to your limit using your desired cardio machine, then slow down the pace for two minutes, before repeating. Keep repeating the cycle until you’ve completed 20-30 minutes of exercise.

More challenging workouts

As it gets more challenging, you can switch to one minute of maximum exertion, followed by a one minute rest interval, then repeat. Eventually, you can increase this to two minutes of pushing yourself to the max with a one minute rest. Keep making your recovery intervals shorter as you get fitter, until eventually your recovery intervals last no more than 30 seconds. The Insanity workout DVDs by Team Beachbody encourage you to work towards three to four periods of maximum exertion followed by 30 seconds of rest before repeating the cycle.

HIIT training in comparison with other forms of cardio

Although HIIT training is extremely efficient and can be completed in less time than lower intensity training, at the end of the day the most effective form of cardio is the one that you’ll stick with. Any cardio, whether steady state (exercising at the same intensity), moderate or HIIT training, will get you results, provided you do it consistently and in parallel with a good nutrition plan. If you’re juggling a busy schedule and want to challenge yourself with more vigorous workouts, then give HIIT training a go. However, if the idea of exhausting intervals leaves you feeling fatigued, then substitute whatever you enjoy most. At the end of the day, exercise is a gift to your body and should be enjoyed.