How Long Should My HIIT Workout Be?

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Few things get the blood pumping in your body like High-Intensity Interval Training [HIIT]. The increasingly popular workout technique has been adopted by high-performance athletes and regular gym-goers alike, thanks to its multitude of health benefits.


But how long should your HIIT workout be?


Well, it depends. According to Healthline, a HIIT workout tends to last anywhere between ten and thirty minutes. As for the rest periods within, they vary drastically, so it can be challenging to know precisely how long you should dedicate to HIIT for best results.


But a recent study from Liverpool John Moore’s University in the UK sheds some light on the optimum time of a HIIT workout. It found that between six to ten rounds of sixty-second intervals, with sixty seconds of rest in between, could be the perfect model upon which to define your HIIT workouts. More on this a little later.


Before we examine how long your HIIT workout should be, though, we will first take a look at what HIIT actually is and why it could be beneficial for your health and wellbeing.


Let’s dive in.

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What is HIIT?

HIIT is short for High-Intensity Interval Training. The true value of HIIT is that you can achieve a huge number of health benefits in a relatively short space of time, particularly when compared to moderate-intensity workouts. In fact, one study suggests that HIIT can produce health benefits that are similar to twice the amount of exercise performed at a lower intensity.


HIIT is also popular because it can incorporate a range of activities, including sprinting, cycling, skipping, and bodyweight exercises. For instance, you could perform HIIT exercises on a treadmill. You would begin by sprinting for up to sixty seconds at a slight incline before reducing your pace to a slower jog for your ‘rest’ periods. Repeating this over a prolonged period of time is how you would perform a HIIT workout.


How long you should exercise and rest really depends on how intense you want your workouts to be. We will come back to this a little later on.


The health benefits of HIIT

By increasing the intensity of your workout and increasing the time it takes to perform, HIIT is great for busy people who don’t feel like they have sufficient time to dedicate to exercise. That being said, anyone can perform HIIT, and as well as saving time, it can potentially have a range of positive benefits on your health and wellbeing, including:

#1 - Increased weight loss

When performed optimally, HIIT has the potential to help you burn a much higher number of calories than other forms of moderate intensity.


For example, a study published in the National Library of Medicine found that when compared to other exercises such as jogging, cycling, and weight lifting, HIIT burned on average between 25-30% more calories. As such, if you’re hoping to burn fat, HIIT is an excellent way to go about it.

#2 - Higher metabolic rate

HIIT is known to result in a higher metabolic rate for several hours after you’ve finished your workout. This is particularly the case when HIIT is compared to lower intensity exercises like jogging or moderate cycling.


This increase in metabolism drives the body to burn off its fat reserves for fuel rather than carbohydrates. As such, it further contributes to your weight loss goals in the hours after your workout is complete.

#3 - Reduced heart rate and blood pressure

According to Medical News Today, high blood pressure is a threatening condition that can irreparably damage your heart, and currently affects one in three people in the US.


Living with a high heart rate and blood pressure can significantly increase the likelihood of strokes and heart attacks, which needs little explanation. Performing HIIT helps to reduce both your heart rate and blood pressure, which helps to manage these particularly dangerous health conditions.

#4 - Reduced risk of Type 2 Diabetes

Type two diabetes is one of the most prevalent diseases in the world today and is a result of high blood sugar levels. The good news about Type two diabetes, however, is that those at risk of it can reverse their symptoms. HIIT programs are known to reduce blood sugar levels and improve insulin resistance, which significantly reduces a person’s risk of developing Type two Diabetes.


When considered together, the benefits of HIIT make it appear to be an extremely beneficial way of exercising. But how long should your HIIT workouts be? Let’s take a look now.


Recommended Read: >>> Anaerobic Interval Training <<<

#5 - The optimum time for your HIIT workout

In the introduction, we introduced a study from Liverpool John Moore’s University. Although the research was conducted on the effects of HIIT on just 26 people, the results of the study were enlightening in regards to the ideal time for a HIIT workout. Researchers split the subjects into two distinct groups:


1] 60HIIT – these participants performed 6-10 rounds of sixty-second intervals, with a sixty-second rest in between.


2] 30HIIT – these participants performed 4-8 rounds of thirty-second intervals with 120 seconds of rest in between.


The results of the six-week study showed that the group following the 60 HIIT method saw a significant increase in their aerobic capacity, and tellingly, the 120-second rest afforded to the 30HIIT group meant that the exercise wasn’t intensive enough to see meaningful results.


While this is just one small study, its results indicate that sixty seconds of intense exercise, followed by the same period of rest for a minimum of six rounds, is a great starting point when it comes to planning your HIIT workout. We would advise you to model your program on this research and ensure your activities are sufficiently intense to benefit from your training.


That being said, be sure to start slowly if you’re new to HIIT, and don’t overexert yourself straightaway. You need to understand your limitations and be willing to adapt your schedule accordingly to help you avoid injury. If you find that six rounds are too much for you at the start, drop it down to three or four. The last thing you want to do is get injured and have to sit out your exercises altogether.


How long should my HIIT workout be – FAQs

Can I do HIIT every day?

Performing any type of exercise every day isn’t ideal for your body, as it doesn’t give your muscles sufficient time to repair and recover. If you were to do a HIIT workout every day, you would increase the likelihood of getting injured and probably experience lots of pains and aches throughout your body. Begin by performing HIIT workouts 2-3 times every week, and you can always increase this as you progress. However, we recommended allocating at least two days every week to rest, so your muscles can sufficiently recover and grow.

How do I know if I’m overtraining

If you’re new to HIIT, it can be difficult to ascertain whether you’re overtraining, as you might feel that the burn and soreness are only natural for this type of training. However, you need to be aware of certain red flags that indicate that you’re overtraining. These include diminished performance, excessive fatigue, injury, and dehydration. While your workouts should be high intensity, they shouldn’t be dangerous to your health, so you need to listen to what your body is trying to tell you.

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Is HIIT different from Tabata?

While there are many similarities between HIIT and Tabata, they’re not actually the same thing. Tabata, like HIIT, is highly effective at burning fat at shorter, more intense intervals. However, Tabata tends to be even higher in intensity than HIIT for a shorter period of time. Also, Tabata is designed specifically to take just four minutes, and the periods of rest are specifically defined. Both HIIT and Tabata are highly effective at burning fat and increasing muscle mass, but you should be aware that they’re not the same thing.

Is HIIT better than long-distance cardio?

You need to be careful when saying that one type of exercise is better than another, as it depends upon your fitness goals. However, from a purely fat-burning perspective, HIIT is a better option than performing long-distance cardio. This is mainly due to the fact that HIIT helps you burn a higher number of calories in a shorter space of time, so it’s a great option for you if you’re hoping to lose weight.

The verdict – how long should my HIIT workout be?

Thanks to recent research, the ideal HIIT workout lasts for between six and ten rounds of sixty-second exercises and sixty-second rest periods. As such, you can expect your HIIT workout to be anywhere between twelve and twenty minutes.


That being said, people regularly modify HIIT workouts to ensure they’re able to achieve their desired fitness goals and objectives, so you might find that your HIIT is slightly shorter or slightly longer than this defined period.


However, you can rest assured that 12-20 minutes of HIIT can yield the same amount of calorie burn as between 24-40 minutes of moderate exercise, making it an excellent workout schedule for anyone who’s short of time, or wants to see results quickly.


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