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Timing is key for consumers trying to improve fitness with HIIT

Researchers say there are optimal times for resting and exercising

Photo (c) umarazak - Fotolia
Experts have found ways for consumers to engage in high-intensity interval training (HIIT) during their day-to-day routines. That’s a great thing because the exercise regimen has been touted for its weight loss capabilities, among several other benefits. 

Now, researchers from The Physiological Society have found that consumers who want to reap the most rewards from HIIT need to prioritize the timing of their resting and active periods. 

“In order for people to get the most out of HIIT, which may be the answer to the difficulties of paying for and getting to the gym, we need to get the timing right,” said researcher Hannah Church. “Our research showed just how important this is, because we found that 30 second intervals with 120 seconds of rest meant that participants’ heart rates didn’t stay up. 120 seconds is just too long to be resting for!” 

Finding the right timing

The researchers sought to understand if all HIIT programs were created equal by testing the effectiveness of exercises with a variety of active and resting periods. 

The team tested out the difference between 60 seconds of activity and 60 second of rest versus 30 seconds of activity and 120 seconds of rest for participants who didn’t regularly exercise. Participants typically completed as many as 10 reps for the 60/60 format, whereas the program with longer rest time only required participants to do up to eight reps. 

The participants completed their HIIT workout three times a week for six weeks, at which point the researchers learned that resting for two minutes in between sets was too much rest. 

After assessing muscle and fat composition, aerobic capacity, and artery stiffness -- three factors that contribute to overall fitness -- it became clear that the timing of the reps and the time in between each set was crucial for the participants to get the most out of their workouts. 

The participants who were active for 30 seconds didn’t improve in any of the three measures, whereas those who had an even split of rest and activity improved their aerobic capacity over the course of the six weeks, meaning they were able to get oxygen to their muscles better during their workouts. 

Moving forward, the researchers encourage consumers who practice HIIT to be mindful of how long they’re resting for, as they could be missing out on crucial health benefits associated with the practice. 

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