The Ultimate Pros and Cons of HIIT Workout

High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) is one of the best fitness programs designed to work on the entire body in a shorter time. I’ve spent plenty of time reading various research and studies to make a comprehensive article on the pros and cons of HIIT workout that will motivate you to start and inform you of its risk at the same time.

Knowing the benefits and disadvantages will help you and your clients design a HIIT program and utilize it properly, safely, and effectively.

You’ll only see the pros and cons of HIIT in this article that is backed by science and real-life experiences.

So, let’s dive deep into the most hyped and famous workout program of all time, “HIIT.”

Let’s start with the definition.

What is HIIT?

The full form of HIIT is High-Intensity Interval Training. It includes any workout performed at high intensity for a fixed amount of time followed by a short interval as the recovery period.

To understand this, let’s take an example of HIIT circuit training.

Assume five exercises in a circuit; squats, burpees, jumping jacks, high-knees, and crunches.

Here’s how you can complete that circuit:

  1. Do as many squats as possible in 30 seconds, then rest for 30 seconds.
  2. Complete as many burpees as you can in 30 seconds, then rest for 30 seconds.
  3. Do jumping jacks for 30 seconds then rest for 30 seconds.
  4. Do high-knees for 30 seconds then rest for 30 seconds.
  5. Complete as many crunches as you can do in 30 seconds then rest for 30 seconds.

That’s one round! You can do as many rounds as you like and include as many exercises as you wish in one circuit.

HIIT workouts are short, intense bursts and help you boost your overall performance. These workouts are mixed with aerobic, anaerobic, and dumbbell training.

You can also do HIIT with dumbbells. However, bodyweight exercises are quicker and suitable for interval training programs.

A Quick List of Pros and Cons of HIIT Interval Training

HIIT interval training
Pros and Cons of HIIT

Pros

  1. Burns More Calories in the Least Time
  2. Afterburn Affect
  3. Weight Loss
  4. Develop Skeletal Muscles
  5. Improve Heart Health
  6. Reduce Blood Pressure
  7. Improve Breathing Capacity and Lung Functions
  8. Boost Stamina
  9. Improve Atheletic Performace
  10. Enhance Quality of Life
  11. Fight Against Ageing
  12. Don’t require much equipment
  13. Adaptable and Efficient
  14. HIIT reduces Blood Sugar
  15. Challenging and exciting

Cons

  1. Not suitable for beginners
  2. Taxing on heart and lungs
  3. Exhausted
  4. Not for gain
  5. Prone to injury

Let’s see each benefit and drawback of interval training in more detail.


1. HIIT is A great Way to Burns More Calories

HIIT is one of the best workout programs for those who want to burn more calories in a quick time and lose weight.

Your body can burn as many as 300 to 400 calories in just 20 to 30 minutes of intense training.

You can shed more calories performing a HIIT session than the usual cardio and weight training – shown in a study published by the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research.1 Caloric expenditure of aerobic, resistance, or combined high-intensity interval training using a hydraulic resistance system in healthy men – National Institute of Health Database

So if you have limited time to work out, it can be beneficial for you. You can also combine weight lifting and HIIT in your general workout regime.

2. HIIT Has “afterburn” eeffect

The “Afterburn” effect means your body continues to burn calories even after your exercise is over. Generally, It lasts for a period of 2 to 24 hours, deepening your fitness level.

For example, a publication shared on the National Institute of Health website suggested – 2 minutes of sprinting allow your body to burn calories for up to 24 hours.2 Two minutes of sprint-interval exercise elicits 24-hr oxygen consumption similar to that of 30 min of continuous endurance exercise – International Journal of Sports Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism.

HIIT also shoots up metabolic rate (a rate at which your body uses to burn calories throughout the day) and oxygen consumption that helps your body releases more calories long after the training.

That’s why many fitness clubs and trainers prefer HIIT workouts over several workout programs when a person wants to burn plenty of calories in quick time.

3. HIIT can help you lose weight

Intense burst interval training is one of the best ways to lose body fat – revealed in several studies. Here’s what research says;

1) Interval training decreases body fat percentage by 2 percent in 8-12 weeks of training without changing diet and lifestyle – confirmed in a study published by the British Journal of Sports Medicine.3 Is interval training the magic bullet for fat loss? A systematic review and meta-analysis comparing moderate-intensity continuous training with high-intensity interval training (HIIT) – British Journal of Sports Medicine

2) HIIT will help you reduce subcutaneous and abdominal fat more than the other types of exercise like steady-state cardio and resistance training.

The same study revealed that 15 overweight women who followed the HIIT program and ate a healthy diet lost 2.6 Kg subcutaneous fat in 15 weeks.

3) Performing 20-minutes of HIIT three times a week for 12 weeks reduce reduced approximately 2 kg or 4.4 pounds of body fat in young males.4 The effect of high-intensity intermittent exercise on body composition of overweight young males – Journal of Obesity

HIIT isn’t the only way to lose body fat; other workout programs may also promote weight loss, but interval training is shown as one of the best training programs that cut fats in a short amount of time.

However, workouts alone can’t help you lose weight unless you manage your calorie consumption.

Out of several factors, a calorie deficit is one of the primary ways to help you lose weight.

Eating low calories food, and a consistent workout will surely help you lose over time.

4. HIIT exercises may also help you develop skeletal muscles

Short burst interval training isn’t the best way to build muscles but it increases the fat free mass after the training of 12 weeks (three times a week) in young people – shown in the above study (4).

HIIT may not help you gain muscles, but it develops skeletal muscles, increases bone density, and improves the coordination between muscles and joints.

5. HIIT workout May Improve Heart Health

If you want to enhance your heart health, you should include HIIT into your lifestyle.

A study showed that even a short session of HIIT improves cardiovascular health and decreases the chances of heart failure.5 High-intensity interval training for health benefits and care of cardiac diseases – The key to an efficient exercise protocol – World Journal of Cardiology

The short interval training stimulates VO2peak, which helps your heart, lungs, and muscles to utilize oxygen efficiently during the workouts. The better the VO2peak, the optimum your heart functions.

However, if you have any problem related to the heart, please take medical assistance before starting the HIIT program.

6. HIIT Workouts Reduce Blood Pressure

Research has shown that HIIT can reduce blood pressure, especially in overweight and obese individuals who often suffers from high blood pressure problem.6 Effects of high-intensity interval training on blood pressure in hypertensive subjects – National Library of Medicine Database

It significantly reduces systolic blood pressure in the hypertensive group in just eight weeks of training.

7. HIIT Workouts Enhance Breathing Capacity and Lung Functions

Among the several benefits of HIIT workout, improving lung function is also an important one.

In a study7 Effects of high-intensity interval training on pulmonary function – European Journal of Applied Physiology, some researchers have selected 15 physically active men for the two different training programs for four weeks (3 days a week).

Out of 15, 8 were assigned to do High-Intensity Interval Training, and the rest were selected for the Endurance Training.

HIIT group performed stationary bicycling at 90% of their maximum heart rate. They did a total of 5 rounds, 1-min cycling followed by a 3-min recovery period.

On the other hand, The ET group cycled for 45 min continuously at 60-70% of their maximum heart rate.

In the middle and the end of the training, both groups performed a five-mile run.

The study demonstrated that HIIT significantly improves respiratory muscle strength compared to endurance training in a short amount of time.

8. HIIT Boost VO2 max

Short bursts of interval training improve your body’s ability to use the maximum amount of O2 (oxygen) during the workout.8 Effectiveness of High-Intensity Interval Training (HIT) and Continuous Endurance Training for VO2max Improvements: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Controlled Trials – Sports Medicine Auckland (N.Z)

It allows you to perform a myriad of exercises efficiently so you can have a satisfying training session.

9. Short Bursts Workouts Improve Athletic Performance

If you’re an athlete, HIIT can be beneficial for you. Several studies have demonstrated that short burst intense workouts, such as sprinting, jumping rope, and jump squats build up athletic performance.

10. Interval Training Enhance Quality of Life

Working out 20-min of HIIT every day can help you improve the quality of your life. We all know how important exercise is when it comes to a better and healthy life.

Any workout program will keep you fit; however, by performing HIIT, you can increase your life span.

11. Fight Against Ageing

If you want to look young and active even in the ’50s and ’60s, you can do 15 to 20 minutes of HIIT exercises that will help you stay young and energetic.

12. Most of HIIT exercises Don’t require equipment

One of the significant benefits of the HIIT is that it doesn’t need any equipment.

You can do many exercises using your self-weight, such as burpees, squats, lunges, pushups, crunches, high-knees, and many more.

13. HIIT Bodyweight Exercises are Adaptable

The exercises in HIIT are mostly bodyweight, so that you can do them anywhere you like, such as at home, in the gym, or on the beach.

You don’t need a spacious place. If you’re ready and energized, you can do a HIIT workout anywhere you want.

14. HIIT reduces Blood Sugar

Perhaps you’ve heard the phrase that “Exercise is the best medicine!” And whether you believe it or not, this is true.

Out of the numerous benefits of interval training, lowering blood sugars is one of the crucial ones.

HIIT helps to lower and control glucose levels in individuals with type 2 diabetes – shown in an article published by the American Diabetes Association. 9Effectiveness and Safety of High-Intensity Interval Training in Patients With Type 2 Diabetes – Diabetes Spectrum

So, if you have diabetes, you can do a short session of interval training to maintain and lower your glucose level.

15. Challenging and exciting

If you want to challenge your stamina and fitness levels, do HIIT CrossFit.

Even if you’re gaining, you should at least try high-intensity exercises for fun.


Disadvantages of High-intensity interval Training

You’ve seen the pros of HIIT workout; now let’s take a look at some of the cons of interval training which are not significant but worth knowing.

1. HIIT isn’t suitable for beginners

If you’re a newbie, you’ll get pretty tough to complete 15 to 20 minutes of HIIT workout session.

In the HIIT program, you’ll have to do exercises are at a fast pace with a shorter interval between each or the same workout, and as a beginner, it won’t be easy for you.

That’s why you should start with the usual steady-state cardio that will help you scale up for high-intensity training.

2. Interval Training can be taxing on heart and Lungs

If you have a heart issue or breathing issue, you should avoid HIIT. Performing exercises at a higher intensity with little rest between workouts can be a challenge and put much stress on your lungs and heart.

If you want to incorporate interval training, you should take medical consultation for safe and efficient training.

3. HIIT makes you exhausted in a little amount of time

High-intensity interval training isn’t a cup of tea for everyone. It requires great effort and endurance. And if you’re not fresh or active, it will be monotonous for you. For example, you couldn’t effectively train for half an hour.

4. HIIT isn’t suitable for gain

If you want to increase muscles mass, interval training isn’t for you.

The HIIT exercises are mostly bodyweight and high intensity that burn many calories and help you lose weight over time.

So gaining mass is next to impossible with HIIT training unless you eat more calories than you burn throughout the day.

5. HIIT can be risky

Rewards come with risk, and if you want to lose weight, the bodyweight HIIT program will significantly help you achieve your fitness goal.

You have to perform the exercises as quickly as possible to burn as many calories as you can in a short amount of time. And that’s the reason chances of injuries are likely high in interval training.


Now, you’re aware of both the pros and cons of the HIIT program. However, if you think it will be helpful for you, you can check out some of the best high-intensity workouts and routines that I’ve created for HIIT lovers.

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