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Shredding Crashers: Is HIIT Healthy for the Inexperienced?

By Martha Michael

High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) is all the rage these days. People HIIT it hard (pun intended) to burn fat fast. Often the motives for jumping into a high-intensity interval training program aren’t to obtain a healthier body, but to achieve a visible result in as little time as possible. A common problem, however, is that individuals without workout experience (not invited to the shredding) are engaging in crashing the class of others who are workout experts (invited guests).

Why do they do it? Because it works.

Data shows you drop fat faster with a HIIT program, says Jim Stoppani, Ph.D., magazine contributor and health consultant. He says that HIIT involves high levels of cardio, such as sprinting, broken up with lower levels of exercise, such as walking. What many people are used to are more common programs that call for moderate workouts for extended periods of time.

The HIIT style of workout has been around for decades, he says, and studies have proven it does what it says: Burn fat faster. One of the earliest studies Stoppani cites is from Laval University in Quebec. Subjects were young men and women who found, after 15 weeks in a HIIT program, they lost more fat than the control group who completed a 20-week program of moderate exercise.

In 2001, a study at East Tennessee State University showed subjects losing 2 percent body fat after eight weeks of HIIT, Stoppani says. The moderate exercise control group, in that case, lost no body fat. Experts from a study at Baylor University in Texas said their subjects who did a high-intensity workout continued to burn 10 percent more calories for 24 hours after the training program ended than those who did a conventional workout.

Assessment

The first thing you need to do is be sure you’re a good candidate, says an American College of Sports Medicine brochure about HIIT. It requires such a substantial increase in energy output, you need to be in optimal health.

Ask yourself:

  • Do you have any heart conditions that limit your suggested activity level?
  • Do you get chest pain when working out?
  • Have you experienced dizziness or lost consciousness?
  • How is the health of your joints?
  • Are you taking blood pressure medication?

Others who need to take care if they plan to start an intense workout program are adults over 40, especially those who haven’t been active.

Consult your chiropractor and discuss your readiness for a HIIT program. He or she can do an overall health examination to further advise you on a proper workout program for your individual needs.

Problems for Crashers

Injuries have gone up, often due to overuse, as a result of the popularity of HIIT programs. If you experience pain or injure yourself from the intensity, stop the workout program and head to an assessment by your medical practitioner.

If you pull a muscle from lifting too much weight during a HIIT program, or excessive squats have affected your knees, your chiropractor can target those areas for treatment. He or she can also guide you if you need to alter your technique.

You’d best take the advice you get about how to practice HIIT without injury. After all, you don’t want the high-intensity workout crowd to see you as the uninvited guest.

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