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HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) is a wrecking workout routine that will do wonders for your fitness level.

How To Do HIIT (Without Wrecking Your Body)

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How To Do HIIT (Without Wrecking Your Body)

High-Intensity Interval Training, henceforth “HIIT”, is a well-researched and well-evidenced approach to exercise that gives powerful health benefits.

Specifically, health benefits that we don’t get from moderate exercise (as important as that is too) or endurance training.

Super-quick overview of the benefits first:

*remember that most forms of exercise aren’t very good for fat loss, because our metabolism will slow afterwards to compensate. So HIIT flipping this one is quite a big deal.

What actually is it?

HIIT means exercise sessions in which one alternates between high intensity “maximum effort” bursts, and short recovery periods during which more moderate exercise is performed.

An example for runners could be switching between sprinting or jogging, changing mode each time one passes a street light.

❝A total of only two minutes of sprint interval exercise was sufficient to elicit similar responses as 30 minutes of continuous moderate intensity aerobic exercise❞

~ Trewin et al. (2018)

Read more: Acute HIIT elicits similar changes in human skeletal muscle mitochondrial H₂O₂ release, respiration, and cell signaling as endurance exercise even with less work

What did you mean about not wrecking your body? Is that… Likely?

Hopefully not, but it’s a barrier to some! We are not all twenty-something college athletes, after all, and our bodies aren’t always as durable as they used to be.

HIIT relies on intense exercise and short recovery periods, but what if our bodies are not accustomed to intense exercise, and need longer recovery periods? Can we still get the same benefits?

The trick is not to change the intensity or the recovery periods, but the exercise itself.

For HIIT to work the “intense” part has to be best-effort or approaching such. That part’s not negotiable. The recovery periods can be stretched a bit if you need to, but with the right tweaks, you ideally won’t have to do that.

Great! How?

First, note that you can do resistance interval training without impact. For example, if you crank up the resistance on an exercise bike or similar machine, you will be doing resistance training along with your cardio, and you’ll be doing it without the impact on your joints that you would if out pounding the pavement on foot.

(Running is fine if your body is used to it, but please don’t make HIIT your first running exercise in a decade)

Second, consider your environment. That exercise bike? You can get off it any time and you’re already at home (or perhaps your gym, with your car outside). Not so if you took up mountain biking or road racing.

Third, go for what is gentle in motion, even if it’s not resistance work per se. Swimming is a fabulous option for most people, and can absolutely be done with HIIT principles. Since vision is often obscured while swimming, counting strokes can be a good way to do HIIT. For example, ten strokes max effort, ten strokes normal, repeat. Do make sure you are aware of where the end of the pool is, though!

Fourth, make it fun! Ok, this one’s not about the safety quite so much, but it is about sustainability, and that’s critical for practical purposes too. You will only continue an exercise routine that you enjoy, after all.

  • Could you curate a musical playlist that shifts tempo to cue your exercise mode intervals?
  • Could you train with an exercise partner? Extra fun if this has a “relay race” feel to it, i.e. when one person completes a high intensity interval, the other person must now begin theirs.

Need some pointers getting started?

There are a lot of HIIT apps out there, so you can just search for that on your device of choice.


We at 10almonds have recommended 7-Minute Workout before, which is available for iOS and for Android, and we stand by that as a great starting choice.


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