Should we all be having a daily HIIT of exercise?

Where time is money in the big smoke – does HIIT offer the health solution to long hours spent in front of our desks and TV screen?


HIIT Training

Having been a rower all throughout university I was use to grinding away at long sessions on the water and monotous 18km erg sessions at least once a week to build up that ‘aerobic base’ as my coach at the time put it.

The concept of high intensity interval training (HIIT) style training was first introduced to me after starting crossfit. Here regular bursts of all out maximal effort with interspersed rest periods were often the basis of many class WODs (work out of the day).

Unsure about the potential benefits of HIIT I performed a quick search on google and some of the benefits included:

  1. HIIT can burn a lot of calories in a short period of time
  2. Your metabolic rate is higher for hours after you train
  3. It can help you lose fat
  4. Muscle gain following HIIT training
  5. HIIT can improve oxygen consumption
  6. It can reduce blood pressure and heart rate
  7. Blood sugar can be reduced by HIIT

All the benefits sound great on paper but is HIIT truly superior to conventional long aerobic sessions or even medium intensity work?

One study found (Keech et al, 2005.) that both medium and HIT training 3x per week for 10 weeks improved body composition in the short term. There was no statistical difference between medium and HIIT training in terms for any body composition. However, time requirements for HIIT training was up to 40% less.

Summary: HIIT training may be more time efficient


In terms of packing on muscle, studies have unfortunately shown that HIIT does not lead to the same significant hypertrophy of muscle fibres as heavy resistance training. Before you think of stopping HIIT training altogether a few studies have however suggested that moderate hypertrophy can occur after many months of HIIT training.

Summary: HIIT training leads to moderate muscle hypertrophy over many months so be persistent!


HIIIT pull up

In summary, claims that HIIT training is better than any other exercise modality should be viewed with caution. As with anything in life there are pros and cons. HIIT training does provide a potent stimulus for physiological change which is also seen in endurance training.

It’s easy to see why there has been an exponential increase in the uptake of HIIT training and classes among young professionals. In today’s society where the constant demands of work are inevitable HIIT provides a time-saving solution for health and fitness enthusiasts.

Published by Dr Chris George

NHS doctor working in General Practice.

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