Why HIIT workouts improves heart health

Why HIIT workouts improves heart health  

Your heart is the driver of your body.  A strong heart not only pumps blood throughout your body round the clock but also pushes you while jogging, provides endurance while riding a bike mile after mile, and keeps you moving each day of your life. 

To keep it strong and healthy, it deserves a workout improving aerobic fitness.  Your answer to achieve this is high intensity interval training, better known as HIIT.  HIIT workouts or HIIT training may not be for everyone, as it can be demanding mentally and physically, but any form of it can provide a boost to heart health. Another benefit of HIIT workouts is that anyone who is crunched for time to fit in exercise, HIIT can be an efficient way to train using the least amount of time to get the best results.

 man doing hit exercises on stairs outdoors

What is HIIT training?

For those who have never heard of HIIT or high-intensity interval training, they have no idea what an efficient and phenomenal workout this is.  HIIT is a training technique that has become quite popular over the years due to the proven and effective benefits a person will gain from using this workout to get in fantastic shape.

HIIT is an intense workout alternating between hard-charging intervals, during which a person’s heart rate reaches at least 80 percent of its maximum capacity usually for one to five minutes, with periods of less intense exercise. For example, a good starter HIIT workout is running as fast as you can for up to 1 minute and then walking at a brisk pace for 2 minutes.  Repeat this 3-minute interval five times for a 15-minutes workout. 

What are the benefits of HIIT training for the heart?

The most well-established benefit of HIIT training is for heart health. When alternating intervals between high-intensity and low-intensity, this boosts cardio-respiratory health with less time spent doing so when compared to performing continuous bouts of exercise such as taking a 60 minute walk or jog. One thing to know is that HIIT training is NOT superior for burning fat or calories or developing bigger muscles. HIIT training is for improving your VO2 max, a measure of endurance that calculates the maximum volume of oxygen the body can use.

It is your VO2 max that science has shown to be the best predicator of overall health. The aerobically fit you are, the better your heart can pump blood, the longer it takes you to get out of breath, and the farther and faster you are able to bike, run or swim. This means if your VO2 max is good, this can help prevent heart disease.

That’s why HIIT is a time-efficient workout that helps you get the benefits typically associated with longer bouts of traditional cardio workouts such as continuous brisk walking but with no interval training.

As to why specifically HIIT workouts improve heart health, it appears to do with the heart’s ability to pump blood. One measure for blood pumping is something called stroke volume.  Stroke volume is the volume of blood that comes out when the heart contracts and is a major determinant of VO2 max. Studies have shown that individuals, who do HIIT training regularly, see their stroke volume increase meaning the maximum amount of blood that comes out of the heart is occurring when their heart contracts.

Other heart health improvements from HIIT training include the following:

·      It improves metabolic syndrome, a condition defined when a person has high blood sugar, high blood pressure, high lipid levels and is obese, all at the same time. People with metabolic syndrome are 3 times more likely to suffer from a heart attack or stroke. A research study showed that people in their 50’s with metabolic syndrome who participated in HIIT training, showed a 35% increase in aerobic fitness when compared to a 16% increase in those who did continual moderate exercise.

·      It increases circulation. HIIT can help increase blood circulation which can lead to improvements in reducing blood pressure.

·      It lowers cholesterol.  Studies show that after just 8 weeks of HIIT workouts, participants had a significant drop in cholesterol levels, reducing their risk of heart disease.

Special Health Considerations before trying HIIT

It’s always a good idea to check with your doctor before changing up your workout.  A few reasons why your doctor may not approve of HIIT workouts are:

·      If you’re pregnant or 3-6 months postpartum

·      If you are sick, injured or have a serious heart condition

·      If you have osteoporosis

·      If you have form of incontinence or a weak pelvic floor

·      If you have arthritis