Is HIIT fun? A recent study confirms that HIIT is as enjoyable as other exercises and maybe preferred. I discuss why.
Which exercise would you rather do? (pick one)
- Moderately easy biking for 40 minutes straight (easy burn)
- Intense cycling for 20 minutes straight (constant burn)
- Intense cycling for 1 minute alternating with 1 minute of easy cycling for 20 minutes total (short bursts and rests)
I know my answer (the other answers make me cringe).
So, I was not surprised to find a recent study showing that high-intensity interval training (HIIT) was enjoyable and even a preferred workout.
The School of Health and Exercise Sciences at the University of British Colombia Canada studied the perceived enjoyment of HIIT compared to other forms of exercise.
They took 44 sedentary adults from campus and had them complete a HIIT exercise as well as a moderate intensity continuous exercise AND a continuous vigorous intensity exercise (outlined above) at different times during subsequent weeks.
They were questioned before, during and after each exercise.
The HIIT exercise was found to be more enjoyable than the vigorous intensity exercise and comparable to the continuous moderate exercise.
It was also found that 24 participants preferred HIIT, while 13 preferred continuous moderate exercise and only 2 preferred continuous vigorous exercise.
This suggests that HIIT is at least as enjoyable as other exercises and maybe even preferred.
How could sedentary adults enjoy and even prefer HIIT? Isn’t this form of exercise too intense and difficult? Isn’t HIIT only for the elite athletes and not the couch potatoes?
And why is it that people seem to love HIIT workouts so much?
4 reasons why you love HIIT workouts:
1. You know you can do it
HIIT workouts are based off of short bursts of activity. You can naturally push yourself out of your comfort zone knowing that in only 30-60 seconds you will get to rest again. Each interval that you complete is an accomplishment giving you a little burst of dopamine saying “good job” and “well done.” You feel good about your accomplishment and this sustains you throughout the workout.
2. HIIT is like a game
I love to play soccer with my kids and nephews. No other time do I feel so sore the next morning. The game is nothing more than short burst of intense activity. Yet it is effortless. Soccer and all sports are essentially a HIIT routine. We are born to play as a part of our evolutionary biology.
3. HIIT gives a rush of hormones
The present study showed a rebound effect in enjoyment 20 minutes post-exercise. I am not surprised by this given evidence that HIIT has been associated with a substantial hormone boost after the workout. Epinephrine and norepinephrine as well as growth hormone have been found to be increased after this exercise in higher amounts than continuous exercise.
4. HIIT workouts take less time
HIIT workouts are highly time efficient. You can get a workout done in under 30 minutes. This alone is motivating. I find it immensely satisfying to be able to get the benefits of exercise packed into such a short time.
So, high-intensity interval training is as enjoyable as a moderate jog or bicycle ride and more satisfying than a more vigorous and intense exercise. We may even prefer to do these short bursts of activity over others.
Jung et al. Where Does HIT Fit? An Examination of the Affective Response to High-Intensity Intervals in Comparison to Continuous Moderate- and Continuous Vigorous-Intensity Exercise in the Exercise Intensity-Affect Continuum. PLOS one, 2014.
Image Credit: Gym shoes macro on Flickr