On of the biggest advances in exercise physiology in the last decade it the concept of “high intensity interval training” or HIIT. While HIIT is wonderful in many ways, many people find that the high-intensity intervals are so demanding and unpleasant, that they may drop out of their program.
Researchers from McMaster University in Ontario, Canada, recently published a study that offers one simple way to make HIIT more pleasant, as well as give better results— listen to music during the routine.
As we have reported here previously, HIIT has been shown to be better than traditional moderate intensity aerobic workouts in several ways. HIIT leads to better fat loss and exercise endurance, and seems to be superior in benefits for the cardiovascular system, including blood pressure control.
Another big advantage is that while giving superior physiological benefits, HIIT training can be completed in much less time than a traditional aerobic workout.
There are many variations of HIIT training, but a typical one might consist of one minute of intense aerobic activity, such as running on a treadmill as fast as you can to reach about 90% of your maximum heart rate, followed by one minute of slow running or rest, and repeating this cycle six to 10 times for a total training of 12 to 20 minutes.
To check the effect of music on a HIIT training, the McMaster researchers studied 20 young healthy young adults who were new to HIIT. They had the subjects perform a HIIT routine consisting of 30 seconds of strenuous cycling, followed by four minutes of rest. They were studied in two conditions—with or without music.
The results showed that not only did the exercisers note much more enjoyment when they performed HIIT to music (they had their own personalized playlist they selected), however, they felt that the intense intervals were just as disagreeable with or without music. Both groups rated the level of disagreeableness at a level of 8 or higher on a scale from zero to 10, with 10 being unbearable.
A surprising benefit though was that when they performed HIIT to music, the exercisers had a significantly higher energy output than without music. They were able to pedal much more aggressively while listening to music.
HIIT has many benefits but it should only be done by those already in good health. Any questions, ask your doctor if it is OK for you. And if you can do it, listening to your own playlist during the workout doesn’t make it easier, but it does seem to make it less unpleasant and may give you better physiological results.
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