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Is HIIT bad for you? Disadvantages of high intensity training

a young man doing high-intensity exercises with outdoor ropes

Jay Juno / Getty images

High-intensity interval training (HIIT) has very good results. Research shows that HIIT workouts can burn more calories in less time than other types training, in particular stationary exercises such as jogging. In fact, one study suggests that HIIT can lead to the same health benefits as continuous exercise with moderate intensity for half the time.

Other studies show that HIIT is a useful tool for reducing rising resting blood pressure. VO2 max, loss of body fat and other benefits.

Given the benefits and that “lack of time”

; is one of the most common apologies to skip exercises makes sense that HIIT has become a popular form of exercise.

As the saying goes, however, too much good is bad.

Excess with any kind of exercise can defeat by spells for your body, but with HIIT it is important to be especially careful. Recent research shows that doing too much intense exercise can undo the benefits of starting to do it.

Determination of HIIT

A man and a woman doing a high-intensity workout in a garage gym

HIIT usually involves short bursts of almost maximum effort, followed by short rest intervals.

Fly View Productions / Getty Images

The term “HIIT” has become quite ambiguous and means different things to different people. The definition of HIIT varies even in the scientific literature that studies this form of exercise.

In general, HIIT is defined as an exercise characterized by short vigorous bursts of energy, followed by short periods of rest. A classic and simple example of HIIT is 30 seconds of running, 30 seconds of rest.

HIIT was originally a way to improving aerobic fitness and is usually used only by athletes to increase their capacity for running, cycling, swimming or other forms of cardio. But in the fitness industry, HIIT covers everything from proper conditioning to lifting weights with a large volume to workouts similar to CrossFit.

What happens when you do too much HIIT

woman riding a stationary bike in a garage gym

Too much HIIT can leave your body exhausted.

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“HIIT puts a lot of emphasis on the body, hence the ‘intensity’ in the name,” said Lee Jay, a personal trainer based in Tel Aviv. For all its benefits, HIIT can sometimes do more harm than good.

Below are six ways in which too much HIIT destroys your body.

Cortisol levels jump

Exercise, although usually good stress, is still stressful.

“HIIT can push our bodies to limits that increase cortisol levels,” says Jay. “As a major stress hormone in the body, cortisol is involved in the way our body copes with ‘fight or flight’. Although short-term jumps can help our body become stronger, too much increase for longer periods can lead to a number of unwanted side effects, including digestive problems, bloating and weight gain. ”

Such intense exercise can also cause lasting anxiety outside of your workouts, Jay points out, as the body’s natural stress responses remain increased due to the intensity. “The key is to achieve an optimal balance in hormone levels by spreading intense exercise with enough rest and stay,” says Jay.

Glycogen stores are depleted

During a workout, your body first uses fuel that is available for quick processing. It first passes the freely circulating sugar into the blood and then it uses glycogen, the form of carbohydrates stored in the muscles and liver.

Your body replenishes its glycogen stores during rest, but if you never rest long enough between HIIT workouts, these stores will struggle to replenish completely. Low glycogen can make you feel slower and weaker during exercise, and can also negatively affect the way your body recovers from exercise.

women look tired in cycling class

More HIIT is not the answer.

Thomas Barwick / Getty Images

Sleep becomes elusive

Exercise can improve sleep, but too much can cause sleep disorders.

“Given its intensity, throwing an HIIT session too close to the bed may not serve you well because your body works with adrenaline, which makes it difficult to calm down with a closed eye,” says Jay, although effects of night exercise differ among people.

More influential than time is the chronic increase in adrenal hormones, as I mentioned earlier. “Rising cortisol levels to consistently high levels and without a natural rise or fall can interfere with stable sleep,” says Jay.

If you are unable to turn off or wake up repeatedly at night, it may be time to reduce exercise, she said.

Metabolism is impaired

A 2021 study on the effects of HIIT reveals something ghostly, but not so surprising, given what we already know about HIIT and hormones.

The volunteers in the study had improved health and efficiency at the beginning of the study, but once they started doing HIIT training five days a week, things changed. Participants showed mitochondrial damage (meaning that mitochondria do not produce enough energy to supply cells optimally), as well as disturbances in blood sugar and insulin production.

In short, excessive amounts of intense exercise disrupt their metabolism.

Joints are taxed

Excessive HIIT really becomes a problem when exercise technique is a problem, says Jay.

“When the shape is incompatible, our joints can become misaligned, which puts a strain on the wrong parts of the body, leading to unwanted injuries,” she explains.

This is especially true for HIIT workouts that involve plyometrics or other high-impact explosive movements. Those with sensitive joints or health conditions that affect joints and bones, such as arthritis or osteoporosis, should take care to limit hard landings.

Movements with a very strong blow, such as box jumps, benchmarks and jumps, pose a greater risk of pain and injury if done incorrectly.

three people in a group fitness class do jumps

High-impact movements are particularly tax-intensive.

Alexander Georgiev / Getty Images

Demotivation continues

“Too much intensity can eventually lead to burnout and demotivation for exercise,” says Jay. If you overdo it with HIIT, you may find that you are afraid of your workouts and end up skipping them, at which point you do not get any health benefits from exercise.

Forcing you to do HIIT workouts that you don’t want to do is also not healthy. Instead, keep other, gentler exercise ideas in your back pocket and use them when HIIT just isn’t feeling well.

How often should you do HIIT?

Ideally, HIIT should not make up most of your weekly workout.

Many experts advise choosing at least one rest or low-intensity day between your HIIT workouts, amounting to two to three intense workouts per week – and lasting no more than 30 minutes (including rest, warm-up and cooling time).

The U.S. Exercise Council proposes to perform HIIT once or twice a week to reduce the risk of injury and to include it periodically for six-week spells to maximize its benefits and improve results from other forms of exercise, such as as strength training.

Understandably, many people believe that adding more exercise to the week will lead to more results, says Jay. But the truth is that exercise is only one factor in a healthy lifestyle. It goes hand in hand with diet, rest and personal well-being.

woman doing yoga in her living room

Proactively add gentle, restorative exercises to your routine.

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“If we constantly push our bodies beyond our capabilities, there is a risk of burns, loss of motivation and injury,” says Jay. “In fact, very few of us have to follow a strict program. If your HIIT workouts make you feel lower than high, maybe it’s time to reevaluate your program.”

Think about your goals and look for other forms of exercise to achieve them. Low intensity aerobic training, endurance training, yoga, Pilates and outdoor activities are all effective forms of exercise that can bring powerful results.

If you want to maintain some form of HIIT in your routine, Jay suggests incorporating shorter bursts, such as a few five-minute interval workouts between weightlifting or aerobic sessions. Another option is to reduce your HIIT sessions to once a week and supplement with another day off to give your body time to recover.

You can also take a few months off from HIIT completely if you already feel overtrained, and slowly reintroduce short intervals back into your workouts.

“Remember, HIIT is not for everyone,” says Jay. “Each of us responds to exercise in our own unique way. After all, if you want to keep your body moving in the long run, it’s more important to stick to what you love, not what you think you should. you do. “

The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended for health or medical advice. Always consult a doctor or other qualified health care provider about any questions you may have about your medical condition or health goals.

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