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updated: 6/24/2013 6:32 AM

High-intensity exercise helps get the heart pumping

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  • Bursts of energy in your workouts will help your fitness routine and metabolism.

    Bursts of energy in your workouts will help your fitness routine and metabolism.


Cardiovascular exercise is certainly an important aspect of a well-rounded fitness routine.

"Cardio" comes in many different forms and intensities depending on your fitness level. No matter what your cardio routine consists of, never get complacent with the same monotonous routine. Who is guilty of reading a magazine while on the stationary bike or daydreaming while going through the motions on the elliptical?

A great way to energize your cardio routine is to practice HIIT (high intensity interval training). With HIIT, you are focusing on short bursts of intense exercise versus a long drawn-out exercise session. HIIT can be used with any type of activity, including running, biking, elliptical, swimming, rowing and even certain types of strength training. It simply requires a short all-out effort followed by an adequate recovery period. Your heart rate will climb and peak during the work phase and slowly drop and stabilize during the recovery phase.

Below are five reasons you should add HIIT to your current fitness routine.

Train smarter: HIIT training elicits a similar hormonal response to strength training and therefore has a lasting effect on the body. Rather than just burning a certain number of calories during your exercise session, the high intensity stokes your metabolism for several hours after your workout is over. During this post-workout period, there is an increased fat and caloric burn. So you get the effect of the actual workout, as well as the bonus of extended fat burn for several hours after.

Preserve muscle: Extended steady state cardio can increase stress hormones and cause the body to become catabolic and actually break down precious muscle mass. Less muscle equals a slower metabolism and less daily caloric burn. HIIT training, on the other hand, increases natural human growth hormone, which supports muscle mass and overall well-being.

No fancy equipment needed:Don't worry if you don't have a gym membership. HIIT training can be done anywhere and with limited or absolutely no equipment. Get outside and sprint for one block and walk for the next. Or, if you have access to a hill or incline grade, run up the hill at your fastest pace and then walk back down. Repeat as many times as you prefer.

Save time: A typical HIIT workout may last anywhere between 10 and 30 minutes depending on the intensity you put into it. If you have access to a track or a treadmill try running 100 yards as fast as you can and then jog or walk 300 yards. Repeat this for a total of six rounds and you're done. You will have covered 1.5 miles, your heart rate will have worked through a varied range of intensities, and you'll be done with your workout in 30 minutes or less.

Improve fitness and performance: Pushing yourself up into your anaerobic zone with HIIT will have measurable benefits in cardiac output and therefore allow you to do more during your strength training and other cardio workouts. Many athletes, including marathon runners and triathletes, incorporate HIIT into their training routines to improve performance and cut down on the wear and tear of long-distance training.

In no way should you neglect steady state cardio, but start adding HIIT to your weekly routine to elicit new results and improve overall performance. For more exercise and nutrition tips, visit for links to our Facebook and Pinterest pages.

Joshua Steckler is the owner of Push Fitness, a personal training studio located in Schaumburg specializing in weight loss, muscle toning, and nutrition. Contact him at

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