Fitness / 18.12.2014

HIIT: How smart women stay slim at Christmas

By Rosalind Ryan
Think you're too busy to exercise over Christmas? With HIIT you're not


What’s the key to weight control and maintaining fitness over the festive season? High-intensity interval training (HIIT) – reap the same results in half the time, all the while conquering your cravings for mince pies due to its appetite-suppressing effects.

What is it?

‘HIIT training is all about pushing you outside your comfort zone, but in much shorter periods of time,’ says leading personal trainer Katie Bulmer-Cooke ( ‘So you could be working flat out for 30 seconds, then take a break, then repeat the process for 5-10 minutes.’

A simple HIIT routine could involve sprinting or running for 30 seconds, walking to recover for the 30 seconds, then repeating that cycle five times.

‘As you get fitter, you can reduce your rest time, so you would sprint for 30 seconds then rest for just 10 seconds,’ says Alex Davies, UK personal training specialist for Virgin Active (

Find out even more about the benefits of HIIT work-outs with Healthy’s guide to interval training

The science bit

Science reveals HIIT is much more effective than spending hours slogging away on a treadmill. Canadian research found that doing 30-second sprints on a bike for two minutes had the same fitness-boosting effect as a steady 2-hour long session. Since then, numerous studies have confirmed that a few short, sharp sessions may be better for our bodies.

The most recent study, conducted by Iowa State University, USA, found that just 5 minutes of running a day could reduce your risk of dying from heart disease – so you can still squeeze in exercise on a time-poor schedule without sacrificing any health benefits.

Curbing snack attacks

HIIT could be your ticket to a trimmer tummy this Christmas. US researchers found just two and a half minutes of intense exercise could help you burn an extra 200 calories over the day.

‘HIIT raises your metabolism thanks to EPOC – excess post-exercise oxygen consumption,’ says Davies. ‘You need more oxygen during exercise, which is why we get out of breath. After exercise, your body has to make up for that oxygen “deficit” so it burns fuel from other sources, boosting your metabolism.

During a long steady run, your body adjusts to having less oxygen so the effects of EPOC aren’t as great. But because HIIT is shorter and more varied, your body can’t adjust so EPOC lasts up to a couple of hours.’

A study in the International Journal Of Obesity found HIIT could also suppress your appetite by lowering levels of the hunger hormone ghrelin, more so than a moderate fitness session.

Still struggling with curbing those junk food cravings? We’ve got some tips to help

Make it your own

Add weights and plyometrics (explosive movements such as jumping lunges) to make things more intense. Otherwise, you could increase the amount of reps you do for each exercise, or decrease your rest periods.

‘Interval training is very individual; you’re working to your own intensity,’ explains Bulmer-Cooke. ‘As you get fitter, you simply increase your own levels.’

Whatever your fitness ability, it’s essential to maintain good form, so the workout is both safe and effective. And remember to have fun – exercise works best when you enjoy it – yes, it is possible!

HIIT: How smart women stay slim at Christmas
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HIIT: How smart women stay slim at Christmas
There's no need to neglect the gym over Christmas - refine your usual routine and give HIIT a go to get the same benefits in half the time.
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Healthy Magazine
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