By Matt Evans published
HIIT workouts are among the most demanding workouts out there. For those not in the know, HIIT stands for high-intensity interval training, which means you work at maximum effort for short intervals, taking rest breaks in between sets. For example, you might do ten burpees as fast as you can, then take a ten-second break before going again. This is what makes it different from other forms of exercise like jogging, which you would probably do at a lower intensity for longer periods of time.
HIIT has long been known to be extremely effective when it comes to fat loss: working at maximum intensity, even for a short period of time, can elevate your metabolism and work to trim your waistline and improve your fitness. Many of the best exercises for weight loss, such as burpees and kettlebell swings, are HIIT workout staples because of how physically demanding they are.
However, even we didn't know you can still gain the benefits of HIIT by doing just five minutes of exercise at maximum intensity. The study, published last week by researchers from the Physiological Society, examined ten years' worth of research on HIIT in order to identify some previously unseen connections and correlations.
The researchers found participants across all these studies received benefits of HIIT training even if they did the exercises for just four minutes, three times a week for 12 weeks. The study found even this short amount of exercise, when done regularly, "significantly improved blood sugar levels, fat in the liver, and cardiorespiratory fitness in adults with type 2 diabetes."
The study also concluded these improvements were comparable to a programme of 45-min of moderate intensity aerobic exercise, like jogging or light cycling. That's not to say moderate aerobic exercise doesn't have its place: running, cycling and even walking to lose weight are great, enjoyable ways to get active. But for time-poor individuals, less than five minutes of full-on HIIT training could be as good for you as a run.
Of course, you can do HIIT with no equipment at all: exercises such as burpees, push ups, mountain climbers and squats are perfect for constructing your own HIIT workout. For example, you could try 30 seconds of each of the exercises above, taking 30 seconds rest in between sets.
However, the best cross training shoes are tailor made for HIIT workouts, as you can move from the weights to cardio with ease. In addition, if you're training at home, you can use different kinds of exercise equipment to get very different results. The best kettlebell and best adjustable dumbbells can help you do swings and Turkish get-ups, while those with the best rowing machine or treadmill can set a programme of all-out sprinting and slower recovery.
If you really want to up the pace in your slender four-minute time window, you could try a Tabata workout.
HIIT workout: What is Tabata?
Tabata training is a type of HIIT workout featuring routines that last just four minutes. Many of these routines feature eight different moves, performed as fast and hard as you can in 20-second time slots, leaving a 10-second break in between moves.
It's just as intense as it sounds, but if you only have a limited amount of time each day, Tabata will ensure you make the most of it. You can try our four-week Tabata workout plan here, or check out the video below for an introduction.
Matt Evans is an experienced health and fitness journalist and Channel Editor at Fit&Well. He's previously written for titles like Men's Health and Red Bull, and covers all things exercise and nutrition on the Fit&Well website. Matt originally discovered exercise through martial arts: he holds a black belt in Karate and remains a keen kickboxer and runner. His top fitness tip? Stretch.
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