HIIT for Your Heart

Help your cardiovascular health by adding HIIT to your workout routine.

HIIT stands for high-intensity interval training, which is short bursts of intense exercise broken up by recovery (or rest) periods. Sprinting for 30 seconds, walking for a short period, then sprinting again, and so on would be an example of HIIT.

HIIT benefits cardiovascular health by significantly increasing our peak oxygen consumption, compared with slow, long-distance training. Our VO2max represents the maximum volume of oxygen the body can absorb and utilize during intense activity. As a result, peak VO2 is the highest value of VO2 during high-intensity exercise tests and the standard for assessing cardiovascular fitness. As max VO2 represents the efficiency with which your heart pumps blood to your muscles, and your muscles extract the oxygen, a higher VO2max (or peak VO2) indicates better cardiovascular shape. 

HIIT is a great way to work towards better cardiovascular health. However, individuals with cardiovascular conditions should adhere to any safety guidelines outlined by their healthcare providers surrounding the intensity level of their training to avoid excess strain on their system.

HIIT examples for inspiration

Individual exercises: Select one movement like crunches, high knees or lunges, do that exercise for 30 seconds and then rest for one minute. Repeat three more times before rotating to the next movement.   

Circuits: Complete a circuit, either as a full body workout or targeting a specific area (ex: abdominal muscles), by doing an allotted amount of reps of each exercise, resting for one minute and repeating. For example, do 20 jumping squats, 20 high kicks, 20 burpees and then rest.  

Sprints: Start every sprint session by warming up with casual running, then begin the HIIT session with 30-second sprints followed by breaks where you reduce back to a casual speed for three to four minutes, preparing for another sprint. Sprint session lengths can continue for a total amount of time or until you hit a certain number of bursts. Adjust the sprint or recovery duration as you progress.

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  1. Mayo Clinic Press. How high-intensity intervals impact cardiovascular health. Accessed January 18, 2023.
  2. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise. Aerobic high-intensity intervals improve VO2max more than moderate training. Accessed January 18, 2023.
  3. Cleveland Clinic. VO2 max: How To Measure and Improve It. Accessed January 18, 2023.
  4. PLOS One. Peak oxygen uptake (VO2peak) across childhood, adolescence and young adulthood in Barth syndrome: Data from cross-sectional and longitudinal studies. Accessed January 18, 2023.
  5. Circulation: Heart Failure. Modest Increase in Peak VO2 Is Related to Better Clinical Outcomes in Chronic Heart Failure Patients. Accessed January 18, 2023.
  6. Cleveland Clinic. VO2 max: How To Measure and Improve It. Accessed January 18, 2023.
  7. World Journal of Cardiology. High-intensity interval training for health benefits and care of cardiac diseases - The key to an efficient exercise protocol. Accessed January 18, 2023.