This intimidating workout may be perfect for most people

Photo: Edgar Chaparro

High-intensity interval training — or HIIT — can come in many different forms of exercise.

There are spin classes and there are boot camp-inspired group classes that focus on shorter periods of more intense exercise with rest in between. It’s a combination of aerobic and resistance workouts which can make anyone quickly feel the burn (and benefits) of HIIT.

But determining whether it’s the right fit for everyone is challenging. Interval training sounds easier than elongated exercise, but the key to HIIT is keeping up with the intensity throughout an entire exercise.

If you’re someone on the fence about taking on HIIT or some other form of interval training, new research suggests that these type of workouts can provide major boosts if you’re willing to give them a try.

A researcher from the University of British Columbia Okanagan said that HIIT is the best form of exercise for the average person due to its ability to cater to many different exercise options, leaving it with a “menu” of options.

Matthew Stork, a postdoctoral fellow in the School of Health and Exercise Sciences at the University of British Columbia Okanagan, published a study in Psychology of Sport and Exercise with two other authors, finding that HIIT or sprint interval training (SIT) can be creative and adaptable to all types of people looking to workout on their own.

“I think many people assume that they need to go all-in on one form of exercise — if they’re a ‘HIIT person,’ they must have to do HIIT all the time,” Stork said in a press release. “But what I’m seeing is that different forms of exercise can be used interchangeably and that people should approach their exercise with a flexible ‘menu’ of options.”

Typically, HIIT exercises range from 30 minutes to an hour, with warm ups and rests included in the circuit. Other forms can last for as little as 20 minutes, but it’s important to maintain a steady heart rate that typically sits at 80-90% of a person’s maximum heart rate, according to the study. while SIT can be even more intensive due to its demand of calling for an all-out mentality.

“Unsurprisingly, different people tolerate different exercise programs in different ways,” he said. “That makes it difficult to establish the ‘best’ exercise program for the ‘average’ person. There’s little research to unpack the experiences and perceptions of HIIT and SIT compared to traditional continuous exercise in the way we have in this study.”

Thirty people were asked to compete in the study, which trialed each participants on different types of continues and interval exercise in a lab setting. The study said it was a collaborative effort where participants were encouraged to share their experience and appeal of both forms of exercise, and the way in which they tailored it to best fit their lifestyle.

The ability to transform a workout that best fits your needs is why HIIT can be a game changer, says Stork.

“Maybe one day you only have 20 minutes to squeeze in a HIIT session while your child naps, but the next day you prefer an hour-long hike up the mountain to destress from work. As long as you’re getting a bit of exercise, you should feel empowered to choose a protocol that fits your needs in that particular time and situation,” he said.