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Originally published Sunday, May 19, 2013 at 5:48 AM

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HIIT training produces bigger payoff with less exercise time

High-intensity interval training is a great way to burn calories fast while you’re exercising — and for hours afterward.

Special to The Seattle Times

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On Fitness

We all want to get more for less, including a bigger payoff from our workouts in less time.

High-intensity interval training (HIIT) helps you do that by improving your current fitness level in short sessions, working to increase your metabolism and cutting your workout sessions to a fraction of the time.

Interval training alternates high-intensity bursts of exercise with periods of low-intensity exercise, or active rest.

HIIT requires you to raise your heart rates to 85% or more of its maximum capacity. You can calculate your maximum heart rate by subtracting your age from 220. Multiply that by .85 (85 percent) and you have your target heart rate. That ensures that you burn maximum calories during your workout, as well as maximum calories in the hours following.

During HIIT, your body consumes more oxygen than when you do slower, longer-distance exercise. The increase in oxygen, in turn, increases your post-exercise metabolism.

Research shows one session of HIIT can burn calories for 1.5 to 24 hours after you’ve finished. To put it simply, HIIT gives you the same fat loss, increased oxygen consumption and improved anaerobic capacity benefits in less time.

While it is usually used for cardiovascular workouts to improve endurance, it can also be used in sport-specific workouts or while weightlifting.

You don’t have to be in amazing shape to add HIIT to your workouts. Choose your intervals based on your fitness level.

The high-intensity intervals should be doable, but tough to complete, and the rest intervals should be just long enough to recover, but no longer. You shouldn’t be able to say a full sentence during the high-intensity intervals. And the rest intervals should be just long enough to squeak out a full sentence. It’s supposed to be hard, so push yourself.

Most HITT workouts last 20-30 minutes. For some, that could mean alternating one minute of walking with 30 seconds of jogging for the duration of the workout. For others, it could be two-minute sprints with three minutes of jogging. Don’t forget to warm up and cool down before and after.

If you usually do steady-state cardio, like walking on the treadmill at the same pace for 45 minutes, interval training can get you the same results in less time by spiking your heart rate higher than usual. That blasts more fat and calories with the same cardiovascular benefits, but also gives you an extra burn all day long.

You should check with your doctor before starting any exercise program, especially high-intensity training. If your doctor says you’re healthy enough to engage in HIIT, boost your metabolism by adding HIIT to your workout routine at least once a week.

If you put in the effort, you will see the results.

Kelly Turner: kellyturnerfitness@gmail.com; Turner is an American Council on Exercise certified personal trainer and fitness writer. www.KellyTurnerFitness.com; on Twitter @KellyTurnerFit.

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