I can’t believe it was almost 18 months ago that I wrote my blog ‘The Fitness Industry is a load of HIIT!”.

If you read it, then you will know in summary I was accusing the fitness industry of focusing on individuals who were already fit and not enough focus on de-conditioned individuals. On the back of this I helped the College of Contemporary Health with their amazing program Make the Move – Working with Obese Clients and I wrote a blog about this as well. You can read here.

This week new research came out about HIIT training from the Karolinska Institutet. If you missed the latest research then the article and findings is here.

We all know the benefits of HIIT and this just reconfirmed them and also highlighted why HIIT could be beneficial to Endurance Athletes as well as Sprinters or individuals wanting to get into or stay in shape; within a minimum amount of time. You will see again the research was conducted on indoor cycles, very much like the Tabatta protocol.

So the reason I am writing this blog? The classic ‘hook’ headlines, to show it doesn’t take a long time to receive these gains. ‘ Only 3 minutes of exercise required to improve endurance!” was the first headline I saw. ” Get FIT in only 3 minutes!” Wow get me some of that please!

But let’s look closer at the detail. The group (male recreational exercisers) it doesn’t state what this means, but they were not new to exercise. Were asked to perform SIX – 30 second of maximum exertion cycling with 4 minutes of recovery. So that means this session alone is going to last 27 minutes. So if you are not used to sitting on a saddle, we may have an issue here. I know they could still stand up in the recovery. (but if you are de-conditioned or over-weight you are adding stress here).

Maximum exertion cycling, flat out sprints – so lets talk Power Zones; on a bike we are talking Zone 7 – 150% PLUS of your Functional Threshold Power. There could be a reason this study was conducted on recreational exercisers; would you want to ask a de-conditioned individual to push themselves above 150% of Threshold? The recovery is ample for the group to be able to try and achieve the same result from their previous interval. But we are aware that there should be a cut off in intervals if your latest effort falls way below your previous effort. But as there was no mention of this in this article so lets assume they managed 150% + every time.

So here comes another dilemma. How long do we need to warm-up our participants for this type of session?

Well you could look at a 5 minute warm-up and 5 minutes of ramping up intensity with gear and cadence before launching them into their first 30 second block. If you feel comfortable with that. You may prefer to spend as much as 20 minutes warming up the individuals. (This would be my preferred choice.)

But for argument sake lets split it down the middle and do a 15 minute warm-up. 5 minutes warm-up – followed by 3 x 1 minute fast – 1 minute slow raising the intensity (6 minutes) and then 4 minutes recovery ride before hitting our first 30 second blast. Our class now is 15 minutes of warming up, 27 minutes to complete the 3 minutes of explosive exercise and then we better cool down our riders and stretch; a further 10 minutes. Our 3 minutes of exercise has now turned into a full 52 minute training session! How many new to exercise, de-conditioned, obese clients are willing to sit on a bike for that duration? How many de-conditioned, obese clients are going to want to do this session? Also most clubs only have 45 minute classes so they would probably knock 5 minutes off the cool-down and stretch and a couple of minutes from the warm-up to fit into the time slot for that class.

So whilst it is great research and knowledge for us instructors, and if you have a 1 hour time slot to teach indoor cycling this now becomes a great profile to teach with science to back it up. However be under no illusion, in my opinion, that this is a quick win for the fitness industry or the public at large to suddenly be thrown into a HIIT session. Especially when the fitness industry believes a HIIT session should be only a 30 minute class. But we may revisit that on another day. For me the latest research today saying 30 minutes of brisk walking can help keep you slim is what we should be focusing on to get people moving!

As always feedback or thoughts welcome.