HIIT and heart disease

  • Health Insurance



Exercise is necessary to keep your body and mind healthy as you age. We've all heard it several times before, and we'll hear it many more times in the years to come. However, with today's fast-paced and hectic lifestyle, finding the time to walk 10,000 steps or take a run through the city can be difficult.

For anybody who is looking for a quick fix to get their workout done without spending too much time on it, HIIT or High Intensity Interval Training has become a preferred choice. Wonder what HIIT is and what its upsides and downsides are?

Well, let's take a look at the answers to these questions.

What is HIIT?

HIIT is an acronym for High Intensity Interval Training, as mentioned above. It involves performing short spells of intensive exercise, with brief periods of recovery in-between. This is repeated until you are exhausted and cannot perform another spell of exercise at the moment.

Different kinds of exercise can be used in your HIIT workout. This includes any cardiovascular activity like running, jumping rope, climbing staircases, cycling, swimming, and other such exercises. The key is to challenge your heart with intensive exercise for a few seconds before taking a quick break, and then repeating the cycle all over again.

For instance, one possible HIIT workout routine may involve running for 30 seconds at high intensity, followed by walking at a steady pace for a minute or two. Then, you run at high speeds again, and cool down by walking. This is repeated until you have reached your physical limit and can no longer perform the 30-second run during this workout session.

As you can see, HIIT is quite an intense workout routine, because it involves energy-intensive workouts with only brief recovery periods2. But your overall workout wouldn't take more than 10-20 minutes or so, making it a good option for people who are quite busy otherwise.

The advantages of HIIT

Incorporating HIIT into your workout routine can be very beneficial in many ways. This is why it is quickly becoming a very popular form of exercise for many people who are aspiring to get fitter. Check out the top advantages of HIIT.

  • You can burn a lot of calories in very little time

    Studies that have compared the number of calories burned during HIIT, running, biking and weight training have shown that HIIT burns more calories by around 25% to 30%1. So, by working for a shorter period of time, you can actually burn more calories. This helps you lose weight faster if you are trying to attain a healthy weight for your age and height.

  • Your metabolic rate rises

    HIIT does not just help you during the workout. Its benefits continue even after you have completed your HIIT session for the day. This is because this kind of exercise stimulates your body's metabolism and helps you burn calories for a couple of hours after your workout is complete. Studies have also shown that HIIT may encourage the body to use fat reserves instead of carbs for energy3.

  • HIIT may improve the quality of sleep

    A recent review showed that any kind of HIIT session performed for at least 16 minutes, for a period of at least eight weeks, can help adults sleep significantly better. So, if you are having trouble sleeping, and if you are also looking for ways to incorporate some form of exercise into your routine, HIIT may help you in both these areas.

  • It may help regulate blood pressure

    High blood pressure is an issue that can lead to several health problems. Fortunately, HIIT may help regulate the body's blood pressure and keep it in check. A study3 found that HIIT sessions performed over just 8 weeks helped reduce blood pressure as much as regular resistance training. So, you can get the same benefits by spending far less time working out.

The negative impact of HIIT on your heart

There are two sides to every story. And while High Intensity Interval Training may be beneficial in many ways, it can also have an adverse impact on some people. Here is a closer look at the negative side of HIIT.

  • In people who are otherwise not very fit

    Researchers have found that vigorous activity performed by unfit individuals can increase the risk of sudden cardiac death. It may also cause myocardial infarction, which is a condition where one or more areas of the heart do not get enough oxygen. These scenarios may be fatal.

  • In people who are not used to regular exercise

    Even if you are not unfit, suddenly performing intense workouts without being used to regular exercise can be harmful. Your heart may not be used to handling the level of stress that HIIT brings, and it could cause a sudden heart attack or lead to cardiac arrest. It is always advisable to start small and be consistent initially.

  • In older people

    Brief bursts of intense exercises may not be safe for all older adults. This is particularly true for older people who have a history of heart disease or who have suffered a heart attack earlier. The sudden stress on the heart during HIIT sessions may lead to unexpected and severe consequences. So, older people need to consult with their doctors before choosing HIIT.


So, like most other forms of exercise, HIIT has its ups and its downs. Its connection with heart disease is mainly evident in people whose heart cannot take the strain associated with HIIT. If you think you belong to any of the above-mentioned categories of people, it is a good idea to avoid doing HIIT and to protect your heart.

And while you are at it, you also need to protect your future financially in case you unfortunately develop any critical illness of the heart or any other issue. A critical illness insurance policy like the ABSLI CritiShield Plan can help you with this. The financial payouts from your critical illness cover can help cover the cost of treatment in case of any insured medical emergency.

1 https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/benefits-of-hiit#benefits
2 https://www.webmd.com/fitness-exercise/a-z/high-intensity-interval-training-hiit
3 https://www.insider.com/benefits-of-hiit
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