In the fitness world, the word “miracle” gets thrown around like a two-pound dumbbell. But when it comes to high-intensity interval training (HIIT), a very short workout, the benefits you’ve heard about are both legitimate and—we’ll say it—miraculous.
HIIT is a combination of brief, very-high intensity bursts of cardio exercisefollowed by equal or longer periods of rest. Think 30 seconds to a minute of sprinting, followed by a minute or two of walking or slow jogging. Repeat this cycle for just 10 minutes, and you’ll complete a HIIT workout.
“We now have more than 10 years of data showing HIIT yields pretty much the exact same health and fitness benefits as long-term aerobic exercise, and in some groups or populations, it works better than traditional aerobic exercise,” says Todd Astorino, a professor of kinesiology at California State University, San Marcos, who has published more than a dozen study papers on HIIT.
Whether your goal is to improve your fitness, lower your risk for cardiovascular disease, lose weight, strengthen skeletal muscle or help get your blood sugar under control, a few minutes of HIIT seem to be as effective as much longer periods of moderate-paced running, cycling, swimming or other forms of traditional cardio. For well-trained athletes, HIIT may be the best way to elevate your physical performance.