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.

Standing up for your health: why the new standing desk may be the way forward…

Office worker

We can’t out train the damage caused by sitting in our office chair all day. Emerging evidence now suggests that an hour gym session after work may not be enough to counteract the health risks of being sedentary

In the UK, we spend an astonishing 9.5 hours a day sat down with that figure increasing on retirement to 10+ hours per day.

We all know and appreciate that movement is good for us but where did this all start?

A quick down memory lane to one of the first ever pieces of research which was conducted on bus drivers in London back in 1953 by Morris et al. It was shown that bus conductors compared with bus drivers experienced less coronary heart disease and death. It was the first big piece of research pointing towards sedentary behavior as a direct risk factor for adverse health outcomes.

Over the years there have been numerous studies showing that physical activity reduces the risk of dying, type 2 diabetes, certain types of cancer, obesity and heart conditions but why is it that so many of us still remain sedentary? Whilst it was initially thought these diseases arose from the fact people were more likely to be obese evidence now shows that even if you are not overweight but sedentary you are still at greater risk.


Sedentary Behaviour

The term is used to describe any group of activities that occur whilst sitting down or lying and usually require low energy expenditure. Examples include: sitting at work, lying on the sofa watching TV, reading, siting on the bus or public transport.

Activities excluded include: sleeping, pushing yourself in a wheel chair and chair-based exercises.


Staying active

When looking to stay active and reducing the length of time we sit there are two important considerations.

  1. The total length of time we sit
  2. How to break up sitting


Standing up for your health

The concept of a standing desk whilst it may not be for everyone it does address the points above. It’s important to realise that no one is saying you shouldn’t ever sit down but it’s about ensuring an optimal balance and breaking up prolonged periods of sitting. With a boom in the sale of standing desks and employers becoming ever more health conscious why not ask your HR Manager for your very own standing desk.


Standing desk


For more info check out the British Heart Foundation (BHF) briefing on sedentary behavior.


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