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The Science of the HIIT Cardio Workout

Science-Hiit-Cardio-Workout-413150-edited.jpgWhatever it is you want to accomplish, there’s probably a shortcut to help you get what you want a little faster. Ask Siri, search Google, troll through YouTube videos, or ask your social network, and you can probably find a hack to help you. And that includes burning fat and calories, and a building a better-looking body.

So what’s the hack for fat loss and fitness? It’s called high-intensity interval training, aka HIIT. What is it? It’s a training strategy that involves completing exercises with near-maximum effort in short bursts, with brief rest periods in between. And if you’re ultra-busy, want to burn a ton of calories in a short amount of time, and tone up, this form of exercise should be the staple of your cardio workouts.

Why? The tough-guy on YouTube might tell you, “because it works, bro.” But there’s more to HIIT training than some mysterious force that melts away fat. In fact, your body responds to high-intensity interval training differently than the time-suck of a slow-and-steady treadmill session or long run.

Pick your poison for your next HIIT cardio workout like MMA-style moves, sprint repeats, jump-roping, cycling, or a fitness class like High Octane ConditioningTurbo Kick, or Body Blast, and give your best effort. You’ll get sweaty, breath heavy, and burn a ton of calories, and it doesn’t have to take a lot of time. HIIT cardio training works because it will:

Raise Your Heart Rate

Sure, your heart rate goes up when you take a walk, go for an easy run, or pedal a bike at sightseeing speed. But it goes up a lot more, and a lot faster during a HIIT cardio workout. And that’s important, because the harder you work, the more calories you burn.

Your heart will be working at 70 to 90 percent of your maximum heart rate during the active part of a HIIT cardio workout, and drop during brief rest periods. How does that compare to slow and steady? On a walk, your heart rate likely hovers around 50 to 70 percent of your maximum heart rate, according to the American Heart Association.

Increase Metabolism

When you hustle to raise your heart rate during a HIIT cardio workout, it fires up your metabolism. For example, you might burn 150 to 200 calories by taking a brisk 30-minute walk. But an honest-hustle HIIT cardio workout can burn 300 to 400 calories in 30 minutes, according to the National Institutes of Health. And that’s what you want when you’re trying to fit in a workout with a busy schedule and hack your way to faster results.

Trigger Excess Post-Exercise Oxygen Consumption

Elevate your heart rate and increase your metabolism. Both of these things happen during a HIIT cardio workout. And while your heart rate goes up and you burn extra calories on a walk or easy jog, a HIIT cardio workout has an advantage.

A sweat-soaked-heavy-breathing HIIT cardio workout triggers a process in your body called excess post-exercise oxygen consumption. Here’s what it means. When your body is forced to use a lot of oxygen during a workout, it requires more energy and more calories to recover. Excess post-exercise oxygen consumption burns additional calories, much of it from fat stores, even after your workout is over, according to a study published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition.

Ready to hack your way to being lighter and leaner? Your next workout doesn’t have to be a two-hour sweat fest to get results. And you don’t have to saddle up on the cycle or slog your way through a long run or treadmill workout. Carve out 30 to 60 minutes, and you can burn a ton of calories and fat, and get lean with a HIIT cardio workout.

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