8 Benefits of High-Intensity Interval Training (or HIIT) Workouts

These benefits of HIIT workouts will convince you to make the exercise style a part of your regular routine.

By now, you've probably heard the word HIIT (pronounced like "hit" a baseball) thrown around in the gym or on your favorite workout app, but it's totally fine if you're still unsure what the workout style actually is or how HIIT workouts are beneficial. Well, for starters, HIIT stands for high-intensity interval training. What is a HIIT workout specifically? It's essentially any workout that alternates between intense bursts of activity and fixed periods of moderate activity or even complete rest.

For example, a good starter HIIT workout is running as fast as you can for one minute and then walking for two minutes. Repeat that three-minute interval five times for a challenging 15-minute routine — you'll be amazed at how effective the short workout can be. Read on for just some of the amazing advantages you'll get from doing high-intensity interval training.

The Benefits of HIIT Workouts

They're Efficient

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One of the benefits of HIIT workouts is that they're ideal for a busy schedule — whether you want to squeeze in a HIIT routine during your lunch break or just don't want to spend your entire evening at the gym. You can achieve similar benefits with HIIT compared to endurance training (think: jogging and biking) but in a much shorter amount of time, as stated by the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM). Further, a small study found that young, healthy adults who did just three bodyweight HIIT workouts a week saw improvement in their cardiorespiratory fitness after only four weeks of the regimen.

Even if you only have four minutes to spare, you can fit in an effective HIIT workout with the Tabata training method. Tabata is a style of HIIT that calls for 20 seconds of work followed by 10 seconds of rest, repeated eight to 20 times total. Start with one of these unbelievably quick workouts to start seeing the benefits of HIIT workouts.

Quick Tabata Workouts:

  • The 30-Day Tabata-Style Workout Challenge That Will Have You Sweating Like There's No Tomorrow
  • The Tabata Treadmill Interval Workout That'll Make You Strong and Speedy
  • This Bodyweight Tabata Workout from Shaun T Is the Ultimate HIIT Routine

They'll Have You Feeling Stronger, Stat

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HIIT workouts are not the kind of thing you can do while reading a magazine or chatting with your friend — and that's part of the strategy. Because they're so short, you'll be working hard the whole time. The trade-off is that this format offers seasoned exercisers a new challenge and new exercisers a quick way to feel stronger — one of many benefits of HIIT workouts that other exercises just don't offer. HIIT may have you sucking wind, but you definitely won't be bored.

You'll Work to Build a Healthier Heart

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Most people aren't used to pushing into the anaerobic threshold (when your body needs to recruit energy stores already available without the assistance of oxygen). But HIIT asks you to enter this anaerobic zone often since there is a very limited time for rest. The short bursts or sprints of work require your muscles to burn glucose (energy) anaerobically as there isn't enough time for oxygen to help produce additional ATP (adenosine triphosphate), which is your body's main energy source.

And high-intensity interval training helps your heart and body improve their anaerobic threshold (or the highest exercise intensity that you can sustain for a prolonged period without running out of ATP). One 2006 study found that after eight weeks of doing HIIT workouts, people could ride their bikes twice as long (while at the same pace) as they could before they started doing HIIT workouts.

You Don't Need Equipment

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Running, biking, jump roping, and rowing all work great for HIIT, but you don't need any equipment to get it done. High knees, fast feet, or anything plyometric (such as jump lunges) work just as well to get your heart rate up fast and reap the benefits of high-intensity interval training. Here are a few no-equipment HIIT workouts to get you started.

No-Equipment HIIT Workouts

You Can Do It Anywhere

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Since it's such a broad concept — work at maximum effort for a short period of time followed by a recovery period, and repeat — you can modify high-intensity interval training based on your time and space constraints while still getting the benefits of HIIT workouts. These sessions show off the adaptability of HIIT cardio.

Do-Anywhere HIIT Workouts

You'll Target Fat...

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Not only do you burn more calories during a high-intensity interval training workout than steady-state cardio, but the effect of all that intense exertion kicks your body's repair cycle into hyperdrive. That means your body burns more calories in the 24 hours after a HIIT workout than you do after, say, a steady-pace run. (Here's all the science on exactly how to build muscle and burn fat.)

...Without Losing Muscle

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While steady-state cardio seems to encourage muscle loss, studies show that both weight training and HIIT workouts allow exercisers to preserve their hard-earned muscles while ensuring most of the weight lost comes from fat stores. (

You Might Increase Your Metabolism

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In addition to increased fat burning and more muscle preservation, HIIT stimulates the production of your human growth hormone (HGH) by up to 450 percent during the 24 hours after you finish your workout. HGH is not only responsible for increased caloric burn, but it also slows down the aging process — one of the sneaky benefits of HIIT workouts.

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