• Kenneth Civello, MD

High Intensity Interval Training

A lot of patients ask me,
"What is the best way to start exercising?"

My first response is just to get outside and walk. In the spirit of the 7-minute workout, I tell them to start walking 7 minutes a day. It is easy, and everyone has the time. I think this strategy works because it helps you overcome the mental obstacles that often prevent you from getting started. Once you get into a routine of walking every day, you can begin to add time or distance.

Remember, the first step is always the hardest

So if you trick your mind that it will only be for a few minutes, it is easier to get started. You will soon begin exercising for 20-30 minutes.


For patients who are serious about exercise I recommend, HIIT: High-intensity interval training.


So what is HIIT?

HIIT is an approach to exercise that involves repeated bouts of high-intensity working periods followed by various recovery periods.


To get started you first need to calculate your maximum predicted heart rate by age (MPHR).

MPHR= 220-age

Next, You need to alternate high-intensity periods with recovery periods.

  • High-intensity periods: High intensity means your heart rate is at 85% to 100% of your maximum heart rate during training.

  • Recovery periods: During the rest period, your heart rate should be between 40% and 50% of your maximum heart rate.

What does this work? It has something to do with excess post exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC for short) that boosts the metabolism and results in 6-15% more calories being burned in comparison to an aerobic workout.


This boost in your metabolism has several more positive effects on your health that go beyond burning calories, such as:

  1. Lowering blood pressure

  2. Increasing cardiovascular health

  3. Stimulating insulin sensitivity which helps the exercising muscles to more readily use glucose for fuel to make energy

  4. Improving cholesterol profiles

It’s also been proven that a twenty-seven-minute session of HIIT, three times a week – so in total 81 minutes – produces the same anaerobic and aerobic benefits as 60 minutes of aerobic cardio training five times a week – which is a total of 300 minutes.

What does HIIT Exercise look like?

There is no “standard” HIIT workout. Since it’s all about heart rate and intensity, a high-intensity interval training workout can include any sport or exercise, be it running, cycling, swimming or bodyweight training.


The two most popular methods are Tabata and Little. Here’s what they look like:


Tabata Method: Tabat is the most popular form of HIIT training. It takes only 4 minutes to complete and is, therefore, the quickest. How it works is simple:

20 seconds high intensity, followed by a 10 second recovery period, repeated eight times.

Little Method: This method follows the structure of doing

60 seconds of high intensity followed by 75 seconds of low-intensity recovery periods for 12 cycles. In total it’s 27 minutes of work.

HIIT training works. But only if you’re prepared to work hard, sweat and stay persistent on an exercise schedule.



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