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High-Intensity Interval Training Gains Popularity

  • June Soh

Like fashion, food and almost everything else, fitness programs come - and go - in popularity. This year, the American College of Sports Medicine predicts high-intensity, interval training, known by the acronym HIIT is poised to take the top spot.

In a work-out room, a dozen exercisers use different pieces of equipment. Whether it's a weighted ball, the treadmill, a rowing machine, or a stationary bike, they work as hard as they can for one minute.

After a 15-second break, they rotate to the next exercise. And the cycle repeats.

“We have a fusion program where we combine strength, conditioning, mobility, squatting, pushing, and pulling," said Chris Wascak, a co-owner and trainer of Roam Fitness in downtown Washington D.C. "And we do it in a high-intensity, interval training style. What it does is you do strength training, you do conditioning as hard as you can for a short period of time and take even shorter rest."

Wascak and his partner have focused on the high-intensity interval training, known as HIIT, method since they opened the gym last April.

“It gained popularity, especially in big cities where people didn’t have the time to spend two hours at their gym," he said. "They need to get the most efficient workout and they need to get it fast in 50 minutes or less."

Jessica Stone has taken the training for eight months.

“It’s definitely helped me lose some weight. It’s definitely helped me stay in shape," she said. "It’s definitely got me into running shape because I am going to be running a half marathon in the spring."

Most of Wascak’s clients are in their 20s and early 30s. But he says older exercisers can also adapt to this type of workout.

“We have 60- and 70-year-old women taking the class. And the best thing about this type of class is anybody can take it. because we can always modify your exercises," he said.

“High-intensity interval training can be very potent and stimulating," said
Loretta DiPietro, chair of the Department of Exercise Science at George Washington University. "Many young people, middle aged, older people, anyone with time constraints or anyone feels time lack of time is a barrier for them to exercise, this is the perfect strategy."

However, DiPietro says, HIIT is not for everyone.

“It certainly something that people could work up to, but I wouldn’t recommend it as a first stage of exercise training program," she said. "And I wouldn’t recommend it for more vulnerable populations: people, who are obese, people who have already established diabetes or cardiovascular disease."

Most high-intensity interval training takes place in small group sessions.

“You need to have somebody control the class and make sure everybody is doing it in a safe manner. That is why we cap [limit the number of students in] our classes," said Wascak.

Wascak expects as people get busier, this workout trend will get even more popular.