Can High-Intensity Interval Training Really Improve Health and Fitness?

A paper published by Gillen and Gibala tested the hypothesis that high-intensity interval training (HIIT) can be used as a time-efficient strategy to improve health and fitness. Their paper was basically a literature review of HIIT research studies that used 2, 6, 12-15 weeks of low-volume HIIT. They state that results of these types of studies show promising results but more research is still warranted.

“While the findings from these small pilot projects are intriguing, large-scale investigations with appropriate participant screening and monitoring are clearly warranted, including randomized clinical trials to directly compare low-volume HIIT versus traditional endurance training in a comprehensive manner, especially in those with, or at risk for, cardiometabolic disorders.”

Research has consistently demonstrated the positive use of HIIT to improve among other things, aerobic capacity, insulin sensitivity, muscle oxidative capacity, and exercise tolerance with as little as one to three sessions a week.  Exercise sessions, typically, involve <10 minutes of hard “all-out” exercise followed by brief recovery periods coupled with a warm-up and cool-down that equates to, typically, <30 minute sessions.



Most governing bodies, like the CDC, WHO and Surgeon General, publish content stipulating 150-minutes of moderate-intensity (or 75-minutes of vigorous) exercise is needed to keep disease at bay.  Is it time to alter some of these findings due to the abundance of HIIT research that has been published over the last four decades?  There is now evidence that HIIT is as effective as traditional, longer duration, steady-state type exercise.

With the number one reported reason for not exercising typically being – “lack of time” – maybe <150 minutes of moderate or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise guidelines should soon be cut in half?; possibly getting more individuals to start/continue with an exercise routine using, at times, HIIT.

 Suggested Reading on the Topic

High-Intensity Interval Training, American College of Sports Medicine

Short-term sprint interval versus traditional endurance training: similar initial adaptations in human skeletal muscle and exercise performance (2006). Gibala, M., et. al.

High-Intensity Interval Training: New Insights, (2007). Gatorade Sports Science Institute, Gibala, M.

Why Your Workout Should be High-Intensity, (2015). New York Times, Brody, J.


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