Are We Moving Away From High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)?

Home » Health & Wellness » Are We Moving Away From High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)?

19 June 2023

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Before we get started, what is HIIT? The basis of HIIT is exercise which normally uses only bodyweight or lighter weights and focuses on increasing your heart rate to a maximum and keeping it there for short bursts of intervals. You can do HIIT a number of ways, there’s cycling sprint HIIT classes, boxing HIIT classes, functional HIIT classes, weighted HIIT classes and I’ve even done a hot HIIT pilates class (yes… it was a 30 degree room where we were doing HIIT pilates!). 

As a former self-proclaimed HIIT lover, I used to make it a priority to try to hit the gym for HIIT at least 3-4 times a week (yes, my pun was very much intended). My apple watch would proceed to tell me that my heart was racing extremely fast, and although I felt great with the adrenaline rush after, it didn’t feel sustainable. 

HIIT involves using bodyweight or lighter weights and focuses on increasing your heart rate to a maximum and keeping it there for short bursts of intervals.

Around the same time, I had a number of blood tests for other things where upon conversation, my doctor informed me that doing HIIT that many times a week may actually be more counter-productive than good. In summary, I learned that women have different bodies from men (obviously…) but that HIIT could actually stress our bodies out by creating spikes in our cortisol levels (yikes) causing us to bloat and retain stubborn fats. 

In general, however, I had noted the shift from HIIT not only in my own life, but in wider society. I then started to see videos, Tik Toks and articles everywhere about people who have moved away from doing HIIT after finding that it may actually be hindering their progress and the burning of stubborn fats. New Zealand’s leading fitness gym Les Mills even conducted a study (HIIT Research – Les Mills) in which it was noted that “the findings have scientifically established that less is more when it comes to HIIT and that any more than 30-40 minutes working out at above 90 percent of the maximum heart rate per week doesn’t help achieve transformative effects. In fact, too much actually hinders.”

Clarity and research into HIIT had begun to indicate that it’s a good form of exercise to do once in a while, but wasn’t sustainable in the long term. 

So what is a good alternative then? I became more focussed on functional training and exercises like yoga, weight-lifting, pilates and reformer pilates. Here’s why…

High Intensity Interval Training
Yoga, weight-lifting, and pilates might be the right type of exercise for you.

A Holistic Approach

Functional training focuses on movements that mimic real-life activities, enhancing overall strength, flexibility, balance, and coordination. It offers a more comprehensive and practical approach to fitness, appealing to those seeking a well-rounded, functional fitness regimen.

Injury Prevention And Rehabilitation

Functional training emphasises core stability and correct movement patterns, reducing the risk of injury and aiding in rehabilitation. This aspect has gained attention from individuals looking to improve their overall movement quality and mitigate the risk of injuries associated with high-impact exercises. A friend of mine recently injured her back, and the physio and osteo recommended workout was pilates to strengthen and condition. This speaks volumes!

Long-term Sustainability

HIIT workouts often involve intense bursts of activity, which can be challenging to sustain over time (which I found true in my case). Functional training and Pilates, on the other hand, tend to be lower impact and can be more sustainable for long-term fitness goals, making them appealing to individuals seeking a balanced and sustainable approach to exercise.

Mind-body Connection

Pilates, in particular, places an emphasis on mindful movement, breath control, and body awareness. This focus on the mind-body connection can be appealing to individuals seeking a more holistic approach to fitness that promotes mental well-being along with physical fitness. For me, there’s an element of mental stillness that comes with practices like yoga and pilates, and I feel powerful yet peaceful engaging in it. 

So overall, if you’ve been feeling like your workouts are plateauing, I hope this has given you the motivation to reconsider that maybe a different form of workout may be more right for you!

Related Article: How To Change Up Our Exercise As We Get Older

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