High Intensity Interval Training: How often should you do HIIT?

By Melania Armento

Published 23 September 2020

You already know how great HIIT workouts can be for improving your overall health and fitness – from heart and lung health to a boosted metabolism and more.

HIIT is a powerful way to lose fat and burn major calories, maximizing the benefits of cardio in a quick, super efficient way. The question that arises, however, is how often you should be doing HIIT workouts, whether more is better (spoiler, it isn’t!) and what it takes to really get the best results.

How many HIIT workouts each week provide the best results?

Let’s get right down to it: there is definitely a sweet spot for how much HIIT training you should be performing each week.

A far as cardiovascular exercise is concerned, The American College of Sports Medicine and the CDC recommend vigorous-intensity cardio for twenty minutes per day, two to three days per week to achieve optimal health.

The exact amount will vary from person to person and it will mostly have to do with how hard you’re pushing yourself during training sessions, coupled with how much recovery your body needs, as well as your age, fitness level and overall goals. That being said, 2-3 HIIT sessions per week is a good place to start.

It is easy to fall into the trap of more equals better, especially if you are actively trying to lose weight and want to burn as many calories as possible. However, when it comes to HIIT, you must remember that quality is more important than quantity.

Since the whole idea of HIIT is to be working as hard as you possibly can during the periods of exercise, you will need to schedule in some real recovery time into your weekly training schedule in order for this type of training to truly be effective. If you feel yourself overly fatigued going into your HIIT training, your form could suffer, meaning at best you won’t be reaping the benefits of the given exercise and at worst you are more liable to injure yourself.

How much HIIT is too much?

When working at such a high level of intensity, your body needs sufficient rest in order to avoid injury and overtraining but also, and perhaps more importantly: in order to give your muscles a chance to repair and grow post-exercise.

Many of us have a tendency to downplay the importance of recovery in the overall scheme of health and fitness, or even go so far as to feel lazy for not doing more, when recovery is actually where the magic happens.

Trying to do too many HIIT sessions in any given week can wear out your body and mind, not to mention that you might actually be hindering your results if you don’t let your body recover adequately. HIIT workouts are stressful for the body, and while a little bit of stress is good, too much stress can have major consequences for our physical and mental health. Excessive amounts of stressful inputs can affect everything from your sleep to your metabolism, energy levels, anxiety and more. With all of the above mentioned factors in mind, you should schedule at least one day off in between HIIT sessions.

Add variety to your workout

Ideally, HIIT cardio will be just one component of a well-rounded exercise and training routine, which also includes strength or resistance training as well as proper warm ups, active recovery activities like yoga or walking, and rest days. If you would like to workout 4-5 times per week, for example, your schedule might look like two HIIT workouts that are both short and intense, two longer strength training sessions and one day of active recovery like a leisurely bike ride or walk around the park.

At the end of the day, moving your body every day is full of mental and physical benefits, and incorporating HIIT training into this movement is a great way to boost your metabolism, burn calories, boost your mood and aid in heart and lung health, as long as you enjoy it, it makes you feel good, and you allow yourself ample time to properly recover afterwards.

When it comes to cardio – HIIT or otherwise – you are looking for the sweet spot that allows you to achieve your goals, but doesn’t have negative effects on your resistance training, recovery or overall health.

Melania Armento

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