High-Intensity Interval Training Offers Cardiovascular Benefits

By Deborah Jeanne Sergeant

Jill Murphy, personal trainer and co-owner of Mission Fitness in Syracuse.

You may love high-intensity interval training for its quick calorie blast. However, HIIT also provides benefits to your heart.

“HIIT is one of the best ways to increase and sustain cardiovascular health through exercise in the sense that the idea is to bring your heart rate up quickly to a high degree and then let it recover,” said Jill Murphy, personal trainer and co-owner of Mission Fitness in Syracuse. “So your heart rate is fluctuating between the heart rate maximum and a much slower more recovered heart rate, also known as a resting heart rate. Allowing you to push yourself to such a degree is actually one of the best ways to bring yourself to cardiovascular health through exercise alone.”

Of course, someone who’s sedentary should not engage in HIIT, as it’s pretty intense.

HIIT involves working as hard as possible for 15 seconds at a physical movement, such as jumping jacks, riding a stationary bike or running on a treadmill and then taking a break for 10 seconds before engaging in a different activity. The times vary, depending upon the HIIT program. Some involve working hard for 30 seconds and rest for 30. The whole session could be as short as 15 to 20 minutes.

Murphy follows physician Joseph Mercola, an alternative medicine proponent, who posted on his website an interview with Olympic coach Phil Campbell who explained that the best way to produce cardiovascular health through exercise is by using a specific modality of HIIT.

“He trains his athletes to do what’s called a ‘sprint 8’ protocol, where you go as fast as you can on the elliptical or treadmill or stationary bike for 30 seconds getting your heart rate up as high as you can, then recovering for one and a half minutes, and repeating that for eight times.”

Murphy added that HIIT can help lower body fat, increase energy and improve speed and performance.

HIIT is definitely a hit for time-crunched people who cannot cram in hour-long workouts into their schedules.

Randy Sabourin, owner of Metro Fitness in Fayetteville and Syracuse.

“I think people have realized that they can knock out in 30 minutes more calories and get in better shape than just going for a walk with a coworker for 30 minutes,” said Randy Sabourin, owner of Metro Fitness in Fayetteville and Syracuse. “It is very effective of conditioning the cardiovascular system. You need just three to four days a week.

“The other thing that people should know with HIIT is you get a big after burn. When you move you burn calories, but the higher the intensity, the resting metabolic rate will stay higher after you’re done.”

HITT’s exertion on the heart helps it become stronger and supports its good health. Sabourin explained that since the heart is a muscle, working it harder can help increase its strength.

In addition, “HIIT training will make you breathe heavily, so it forces the heart to push circulation,” he said. “You can make up a HIIT routine with calisthenics and body weight.”

At his clubs, a HIIT workout could include air bikes, weighted sleds, rowing machines, tire flips, sand bags, medicine balls, and kettle bell swings.

“Typically, people perform a movement for 30-45 seconds as high as they can tolerate with a 15-20 transition to the next station,” Sabourin said. “You do a circuit for 30-45 minutes like that and it produces a pretty good result.”

As with any exercise regimen, it’s vital to ensure capability of performing it before engaging in it. HIIT can be scaled down to the participant’s level of fitness.