High Intensity Interval Training

by: Kyna Lewis

It can be hard to find time to meet the 30-60 minute per day requirement for aerobic exercise. What if I told you there could be a more effective and time efficient route to burn fat? High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) is a form of cardiovascular exercise that involves high intensity bouts of exercise such as sprints, with rest or active recovery cycles. These cycles could include time allotted just for rest or a lower intensity recovery, such as walking. Just like continuous training, HIIT has several benefits. HIIT has been shown to have significant improvements in aerobic fitness, metabolic health, and cardiovascular health.  (Kilpatrick, M., 2014).


When completing an aerobic HIIT training workout, you want to consider the duration, intensity, and frequency of the work intervals and the length of the rest and recovery periods. A HIIT session should consist of a warm up period of exercise between 5-7 minutes, followed by shorter bouts of high intensity effort which typically require you to become breathless during the work interval, and a relief interval such as rest, walking, or moderate exercise such as jogging. The short bursts of high intensity exercise periods may range from 5 seconds to 8 minutes long, and are performed at 80% to 95% of estimated maximal heart rate. The rest and recovery periods should be equal in time of the work intervals or even a bit longer, or double the work interval time usually performed at 40%-50% of estimated maximal heart rate. The sessions continue with three to ten repetitions alternating work and relief intervals, and ending with a period of cool down exercises totaling just about 15-20 minute. (Kravitz, L., 2014).

HIIT training can be modified into exercise sessions below the minimum training threshold for beginner exercisers as well as conditioned athletes who wish to improve aerobic power. HIIT training can be performed in a variety of exercise modes, including bodyweight exercises, cycling, walking, swimming, jump rope, elliptical cross-training, and in group exercise classes. It is also really important to establish a base fitness level before engaging in HIIT training or any exercise training program. Although HIIT training is more common in athletic training programs, there are beneficial results established through published research studies indicating that high-intensity training is more effective and time efficient in improving performance, and it can be modified and used for all individuals who have a base fitness level (exercising 3-5 times a week for 20-60 minutes at a moderate intensity).  If you have not been exercising habitually, one alternative might be to try moderate intensity interval training (MITT), which involves working at a moderate intensity with cycles of rest or low-intensity recovery periods.

Here’s an example of a sample HIIT Program:

  • Warm up for 2 to 5 minutes at a low to moderate intensity.
  • 1-minute high-intensity work interval at about 80%-95% of max effort.
  • 1-minute low-intensity relief interval at about 10% max effort.
  • Repeat the work and relief intervals 10 times for 20 minutes total.
  • Cooldown for 5-10 minutes.

American College of Sports Medicine. High Intensity Interval Training. (2014)

Griffin, J.C. Client-Centered Exercise Prescription. 2015. Human Kinetics. P. 222-223

International Journal of Applied Sports Sciences. Evaluating and Comparing the Effect of High Intensity Interval Training vs. Low Intense, Longer-lasting training on Endurance Performance in Recreational Runners.

(Kilpatrick, Marcus W., Ph.D. “High-Intensity Interval Training.” A Review of Physiological and Psychological Responses 18.5 (2014): 0-5. Web.)




Assistant Professor, Kinesiology and Health Studies department