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HIIT (High intensity interval training) - Did you know...?

What is HIIT

High intensity interval training (HIIT) is a protocol of short work intervals<60s–8min of vigorous (70%–90% MHR or RPE Borg scale 14–16) to high intensity (≥90%MHR or ≥RPE Borg scale 17) interspersed with active (40%–70%MHR or RPE Borg scale 8–13) or passive (cessation of movement) recovery periods of 1–5min

HIIT utilizes repeated short to long bouts of relatively high-intensity exercise alternated with recovery periods of either low-intensity exercise or rest

Scientific Facts:

  • Interval training and moderate-intensity continuous training. both reduce body fat percentage (%). Interval training provided 28.5% greater reductions in total absolute fat mass (kg) than moderate-intensity continuous training.

  • HIIT encompasses exercise prescriptions that are tailored to individual needs and can be used in most any exercise setting. This ability to adapt makes HIIT a valuable tool in the exercise programming of patients with a chronic disease

  • A study using healthy individuals, reported that the high-intensity components of HIIT resulted in greater training improvements in maximal aerobic capacity compared to the improvements elicited by moderate-intensity continuous training

  • HIIT may have added benefits by producing peripheral muscle changes. This results in fewer negative training symptoms (less reported ratings of dyspnea and leg discomfort).

  • Patients with cardiovascular disease demonstrate improved functional capacity and quality of life without increasing medical risk with HIIT exercise

  • HIIT should always be considered in conjunction with, or as a supplement to, moderate-intensity continuous training in the medical management plan for patients with a chronic disease, and those individuals who are not able to tolerate high-intensity Exercise intensity.

  • HIIT presents little risk for stable patients when the prescribed exercise protocols are followed

  • HIIT is an effective method to improve Cardiorespiratory Fitness in adolescents, irrespective of body composition

  • HIIT does not out-perform moderate-intensity continuous training in positively affecting total cholesterol (TC), triglycerides (TRG), low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-C) and the TC/ high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL-C) ratio. However, moderate-intensity continuous training seems to be inferior to HIIT for inducing positive changes to HDL-C --> age, gender and presence of Metabolic Syndrome (MetS) or MetS factors/risk) and intervention (weight-bearing) characteristics do appear to influence effect size

An abnormally elevated or lowered blood lipid profile, known as dyslipidaemia, is a significant risk factor of cardiovascular disease (CVD) ischaemic stroke ; non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) and chronic pancreatitis.Dyslipidaemia frequently coexists with other Metabolic Syndrome (MetS) factors such as obesity and type 2 diabetes (T2D)

  • Studies have shown aerobic exercise reduces elevated total cholesterol (TC), triglycerides (TRG) and low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-C) and increases high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL-C) in subclinical and clinical populations

  • Moderate-intensity and vigorous intensity aerobic physical activity positively impacts MetS factors, thus lowering CVD risk

  • The multiplicity of HIIT protocols is an obstacle to endorsing a specific HIIT regime most effective for positively impacting blood lipids while accounting for time and enjoyment needs, although HIIT could be chosen in preference to moderate-intensity continuous training for improving HDL-C.

  • HIIT has been shown to increase peak oxygen consumption (VO2MAX or VO2PEAK) compared with moderate-intensity continuous training in cardiovascular disease (CVD) populations,

Studies have shown a minimum volume of weekly aerobic exercise for a minimum duration and a weekly aerobic exercise energy expenditure (EEE) threshold of 1200–2200 kcal is necessary to induce positive changes to lipids


  • Wood, G., Murrell, A., van der Touw, T., & Smart, N. (2019). HIIT is not superior to MICT in altering blood lipids: a systematic review and meta-analysis. BMJ open sport & exercise medicine, 5(1), e000647.

  • Martin-Smith, R., Cox, A., Buchan, D. S., Baker, J. S., Grace, F., & Sculthorpe, N. (2020). High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) Improves Cardiorespiratory Fitness (CRF) in Healthy, Overweight and Obese Adolescents: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Controlled Studies. International journal of environmental research and public health, 17(8), 2955.

  • Ross, L. M., Porter, R. R., & Durstine, J. L. (2016). High-intensity interval training (HIIT) for patients with chronic diseases. Journal of sport and health science, 5(2), 139–144.

  • Viana RB, Naves JPA, Coswig VS, de Lira CAB, Steele J, Fisher JP, Gentil P. 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). Br J Sports Med. 2019 May;53(10):655-664. doi: 10.1136/bjsports-2018-099928. Epub 2019 Feb 14. PMID: 30765340.

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