Should I do short or long interval HIIT training? The experts weigh in.
High-intensity interval training or HIIT, involves alternating between near-maximum intensity workouts and lower intensity rest periods. This tough training method is a more effective fat burner than standard workouts because you amp up your heart rate to 85 to 90 percent of its max rate, according to Built Lean.
However, there is some controversy about how long a HIIT workout should last. Options range from the four-minute Tabata to workouts lasting longer than one-hour. For the best results, should you aim for shorter or longer training sessions?
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The Sweet Spot for HIIT Duration
Built Lean claims that the ideal length of a HIIT session lies in the 20- to 30-minute range. They add, that workouts shorter than 15 minutes don’t give you enough time training at your near-maximum exertion level to help you achieve adequate results. They won’t hurt you certainly, but results will not be “optimal”.
Prevention fitness advisor Wayne L. Westcott backs up this number. He mentions that a HIIT session needs to be at least 15 or 20 minutes long. This will maximize calorie burn and cardiovascular benefits.
On the other hand, Men’s Health advocates even shorter workouts of 4 to 15 minutes. They suggest that you can use active rest periods, such as holding the plank position, to make your workouts more intense.
Both Men’s Fitness and Built Lean cap the ideal HIIT workout at 30 minutes. According to Men’s Health, training past this duration can lead to overuse injuries.
If you do go for a 30-minute workout, consider chunking your session into three workouts of five to seven minutes with short rest periods in between to help you keep up maximum intensity.
Other factors such as age, fitness level and stress in everyday life also play a role in determining your ideal training duration. Talk to a personal trainer or your doctor before getting started to build a safe, effective workout plan that fits your lifestyle.
How Often Should You Train?
Whether you choose a 5-minute, 20-minute, 30-minute or even longer workout, select your frequency of training based on your goals and your fitness level. If you don’t live a very active life, start incorporating HIIT sessions one day a week. HIIT training will spike your heart rate for short burst and you may need time to build stamina.
On the other hand, if you are fairly active, work out once or twice a week for heart health or two to three days a week for weight loss. If your fitness level is more advanced, incorporate two to three days of HIIT plus several days of circuit or strength training.
There may not be any consensus about the ideal length for a HIIT session. What experts do agree on however, is that a workout of 15 to 20 minutes should provide good results without putting you at risk of injury.
On the other hand, a much shorter HIIT session is still better than no training at all. Whatever your chosen HIIT duration, be sure to add several minutes of warm-up and cool-down to ensure a safe, healthy workout.