By Gabe Sanders PhD, NSCA-CSCS
Research has established that high intensity interval training (HIIT) is good for you. Regardless of your age, engaging in exercise with spikes of higher intensity is beneficial for your health. In fact, HIIT has been shown to improve blood pressure, cholesterol, and help your body control is blood sugar levels.
As with other forms of exercise, results from HIIT training takes time and consistency. Research suggests it may take anywhere from eight to twelve weeks of regular exercise to experience positive changes in your blood glucose, cholesterol and blood pressure. Most importantly, you need to have a solid understanding of how to monitor your HIIT workouts.
Engage in HIIT training two to three times per week
A good recommendation is to engage in HIIT training two to three times per week with recovery or light intensity exercise days in between. To monitor your HIIT workout, it may be best to monitor both your heart rate and your rating of perceived exertion (RPE).
Your heart rate can be monitored with any wearable activity tracker that can be worn on your wrist or strapped around your chest. RPE is a simple method to monitor your intensity because it allows you to gauge your intensity on a scale of zero to ten. Zero means you are sitting down resting and ten is the hardest you have ever worked out or exerted yourself.
Remember HIIT consist of intermittent bouts of high intensities followed by equal or brief recovery periods. For example, you could exercise hard for one-minute and then rest for one -minute. If you are monitoring your heart rate and RPE, both should significantly increase during your minute of high intensity work and then significantly decrease the following minute.
Monitoring your exercise with heart rate and RPE ensures your intensity is high enough when you engage in this type of training on a week to week basis. You can also gradually increase your heart rate goal for your high intensity zones.
Here’s a HIIT aerobic workout with HR and RPE numbers
Below is an example HIIT aerobic workout on a bicycle with heart rate and RPE monitoring numbers. While the example uses a bicycle, you can apply the same principle to any aerobic exercise.
Bicycle or Seated Recumbent Bike
Pedal fast for 1 minute (Heart rate at 125-135 BPM and RPE at 6 or 7) High Intensity
Pedal slow for 1 minute (Heart rate at 90-100 BPM and RPE at 3-4) Low Intensity
Repeat 5 times and gradually increase to repeat 10 times.
For more examples of other variations/exercises look under Multimedia-VDF Exercise Tips
**Consult with a physician and/or medical healthcare provider before starting any exercise regimen
Dunstan DW, Daly RM, Owen N, et al. High-Intensity Resistance Training Improves Glycemic Control in Older Patients With Type 2 Diabetes . Diabetes Care 2002; 25(10): 1729-1736.
Kessler HS, Sisson SB, Short KR. The Potential for High-Intensity Interval Training to Reduce Cardiometabolic Disease Risk Sports Medicine. 2012; 42(6): 489–509.