We in the industry saw the actual research weeks ago but this one has really made the rounds on the news that’s for sure. Some news agencies report on it decently – some are ignorant bafoons who just keep repeating 1 minute beats 45 minutes. Uh, no. Idiots. Liars.
So the “1 minute” sedentary men (see that? sedentary MEN) started with 2 min warmup, then 20 secs ALL OUT on spin bike, then 2 mins of moderate, then 20 secs ALL OUT, then 2 mins of moderate, then 20 secs of ALL OUT, then 3 mins of cool down. It’s a total of 10 minutes of exercise done three times a week – 30 mins of exercise a week.
The control group did 45 minutes of moderate steady state cycling without any high-intensity intervals three times a week.
So, while the news is SHOCKED that high-intensity-interval training (HIIT) can work as well as longer, steady-state (LSS) training it’s NOT new at all – we’ve been talking about this for a good 20 years.
Here’s the deal though – MOST people are unwilling to go ALL OUT for even 20 seconds repeated 3 times in 10 mins. And most people completely out of shape should NOT go all out like that without clearance from their doc and at least some weeks of exercise DOING whatever the cardio is they’re doing.
The MEN in this study did it on a stationary spin cycle. Cool. Are you going to do it running? Are you going to do it on an elliptical? A stairmaster? Stairmill? Rower? What are you going to be using as your cardio device? The pavement? So you’re going to run as FAST AS YOU POSSIBLY CAN for 20 seconds? Good luck. Actually, unless you’re in decent enough shape and really used to it – DON’T. It’s stupid to do it.
So as the media does they focus on the 1 minute = 45 part. Well, that’s not accurate but it sure plays well on TV and radio.
So much of this depends on your goals. Want to run a half marathon? Sorry, this HIIT won’t work – no way in hell.
Want to run a 5k and get a medal? Nope, won’t work.
Want to drop 100 pounds in six months? Well you’ll burn about 120-150 calories in each of your 10 minute sessions IF you do them as the study prescribed (not likely). So that’s a during-exercise burn of 450 cals a week max. You need, using rough numbers, a 3500 calorie deficit to lose 1 pound of fat (oh shut the hell up all you nerds who say 3500kcal isn’t a pound of fat! – you know who you are). So you BETTER plan on keeping dietary calories REALLY low to lose those 100 pounds in six months because it ain’t gonna happen because of exercise.
“Well ya but, it’s all the excess post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC) that gives the benefit here – we burn a LOT more calories after a HIIT workout than we do with an LSS workout.” No, we don’t. Again, look at ALL the research goof ball, we DON’T burn a lot more calories post-workout for HIIT than LSS. Are there enzymatic upticks and hormone shifts that favor increased fat mobilization for doing HITT? Ya, there is. Does it allow 10 minutes of HIIT to beat 45 mins of LSS? Good friggin luck with that.
The good I see with the knuckleheads in the media covering this is it’ll draw more attention to HIIT and the fact it CAN help us to shorten our exercise sessions to get the same benefit as the longer sessions – and with a smart training regimen – HIIT can confer some benefits better than LSS.
Time is precious, equal and irreplaceable to us all. At times, it might make a LOT of sense to intersperse some HIIT with standard LSS. Maybe I only have 20 minutes instead of 40 to give. Hey, that might be a great time to bust out the HIIT workout! Maybe I’m a Crossfitter who needs kick ass anaerobic strength to perform well. Yep, better plan on doing some regular HIIT sessions.
Personally? I find HIIT makes the time fly by! In my three cardio sessions a week I’ll make 1-2 of them HIIT based – depends on mood, energy, goals, injuries, you name it.
If you simply won’t even begin to exercise if you know you have to go balls to the wall (even if it’s only 20 seconds) then HIIT is worthless to you. Start where you are. Move. Build up incrementally, measure progress so you know if you’re improving, keep improving until you’ve achieved the body and fitness you desire. Maybe that’ll include some HIIT – maybe not.