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Short intense workouts: Are they for you?

Published: April 15, 2022

HIT increases cardiac output
HIT increases cardiac output

Many people have difficulty in fitting physical activity and exercise into their hectic schedules.

For people embarking (willingly or unwillingly) on an exercise program, the notion of exercising for short periods of time just a few times a week may seem appealing.
However, do the benefits of high intensity interval training meet your personal physical activity or exercise goals?
High intensity interval training (HIIT) is a valuable cardiovascular training mechanism for athletes wanting to improve their cardiac output and ability to exercise at very high intensity levels.
For athletes, HIIT involves short very intense bouts of exercise interspersed with less intense exercise.
During the intense exercise bouts, athletes exercise “all out” for 30 seconds often reaching their maximum heart rate (or higher).
In recent years, research in which non-athlete populations engage in HIIT training has provided some interesting insight into cardiovascular improvement and decreased risk of morbidity.
A major outcome of HIIT training in the general population, and populations with cardiovascular disease, is that modified HIIT training performed 3 times per week improves cardiac output.
This may be as effective as endurance cardiovascular training performed for longer periods of time on more days of the week.
The main attraction here is that for people who need to improve their cardiac output, but cannot fit the long bouts of cardiovascular endurance training into their daily routine, exercising for 20 – 30 minutes, just 3 times per week may be manageable.
In addition, working more intensely increases your cardiac output, which increases you energy output or calorie usage.
Some research has focused on glucose and insulin response to HIIT.
HIIT may increase the uptake of glucose from your blood which has the potential to benefit blood glucose control.
This is great research, but the conclusions which the researchers themselves make often become distorted when reported as health news items by the media.
HIT may not trim your waist line
HIT may not trim your waist line
How the consumer receives and interprets this information may distort the results further.
High intensity interval training may be perceived as the only cardiovascular training you need to do.
Not only improve your cardiac output, but also burn mega calories and prevent diabetes!
HIIT is a training method that can benefit athletes and improve their performance.
Under appropriate conditions HIIT may benefit many non-athletes with a view to improving cardiac output and health.
However, if you have exercise and/or health goals other than improving your cardiac output high intensity interval training may not, on its own, be adequate to meet your needs. Link to the full article to learn more.


Corbin, C.B. & Lindsey, R. (1994). Concepts of Physical Fitness. Dubuque, IA: Wm. C. Brown Communications Inc.
American Council on Exercise (1996). Personal Trainer Manual. San Diego, CA: American Council on Exercise
Whitney, E. & Rady Rolfes, S. (2005). Understanding Nutrition. Belmont, CA: Thomson Wadsworth
Gibala. (2013): CSEP: Extreme human physiology-Pathology to performance: Hit to get fit: Physiological adaptations to high intensity training in health and disease
Gibala (2012, December), CSPI Nutrition Action Health Letter
CSPI (12/2011, 05/2010)
BBC News (29/10/2009) Short fast sprints cut diabetes