The Sport Information Resource Centre
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The Sport Information Resource Centre

Many Canadians cite a “lack of time” when asked about barriers to adding physical activity into their lives. High-intensity interval training (HIIT) is used by many athletes and fitness enthusiasts to reach their performance goals and enhance their fitness levels.

HIIT is a type of cardio training that involves alternating bouts of light-to-moderate intensity with bouts of high intensity. HIIT sessions include a warm-up, several short, maximum intensity bursts punctuated with low intensity recovery intervals followed by a cool down. Most HIIT training workouts last about 15 minutes but can stretch to 20 minutes. Since most of us lead busy lives, HITT may be something worth considering. 

The difference between regular interval training and HITT is that it involves maximum effort, not just a higher heart rate. Typically the exercises involve running, skipping, or swimming but can easily adapt to any sport. Different approaches to this training can involve varying: the time of each interval, how many intervals to include and how many of these training sessions to perform each week.

Benefits include:

  • increases in cardio fitness
  • improvements in exercise performance
  • increases in metabolism
  • increases in endurance
  • prevention of muscle loss
  • challenges for both beginners and experts

Before starting any kind of high intensity interval training you should be able to exercise for at least 20-30 minutes at about 80% of your maximum heart rate. Because this form of training is physically demanding is it important to ensure you build up your training program or you may run the risk of overdoing it.

This type of training is easily adaptable to each person’s fitness level and capability. Start at a level that you feel comfortable with and gradually increase the difficulty. It’s OK to give yourself a bit of challenge, that’s how we improve, but be careful not to run yourself into the ground.

With anyone starting a new fitness program it’s important to talk to your physician first if you have any concerns. 

References from the SIRC Collection:

1. Dunham C, Harms C. Effects of high-intensity interval training on pulmonary function. European Journal Of Applied Physiology. August 2012;112(8):3061-3068.
2. Gillen J. Low-Volume, High-Intensity Interval Training: A Practical Fitness Strategy. Wellspring. August 2012;23(4):1-4.
3. Gremeaux V, Drigny J, Gayda M, et al. Long-term Lifestyle Intervention with Optimized High-Intensity Interval Training Improves Body Composition, Cardiometabolic Risk, and Exercise Parameters in Patients with Abdominal Obesity. American Journal Of Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation. November 2012;91(11):941-950.
4. Metcalfe R, Babraj J, Fawkner S, Vollaard N. Towards the minimal amount of exercise for improving metabolic health: beneficial effects of reduced-exertion high-intensity interval training. European Journal Of Applied Physiology. July 2012;112(7):2767-2775.
5. Rowan A, Kueffner T, Stavrianeas S. Short Duration High-Intensity Interval Training Improves Aerobic Conditioning of Female College Soccer Players. International Journal Of Exercise Science. July 2012;5(3):232-238.
6. Selfridge N. High-Intensity Interval Training: A Sprint or Nine Saves Time?. Integrative Medicine Alert. August 2012;15(8):88-91.



The information presented in SIRC blogs and SIRCuit articles is accurate and reliable as of the date of publication. Developments that occur after the date of publication may impact the current accuracy of the information presented in a previously published blog or article.