Whenever I decide to do some high-intensity interval training (HIIT), I almost always find myself questioning my life choices as I count down the seconds until I can stop drowning in my own sweat. Seriously, I often compare HIIT sessions to getting your eyebrows waxed: It's painful, it makes you cringe, but it's all over with pretty quick, and it definitely gets the job done. Just how quick these sweat sessions are, though, varies from person to person — but if you're looking for a loose guideline, there is one rule on how long a HIIT workout should actually be. More on that in a bit, my friend.
First of all, if you have no idea what HIIT is, or have never tried this kind of workout, it's simply defined as "short, intense, unsustainable bursts" of movement, "paired with intervals of quick rests," according to Fitness Blender.
High-intensity interval training continues to rise in popularity because it represents a more time efficient way to accomplish your goals than your typical workout, which can often run a lot longer than you like, or than your schedule can even accommodate.
However, when it comes to defining a workout as "short" or "long," it's different for everyone. So how much of a quickie should your HIIT workout really be?
Elite Daily spoke to Laura Arndt, CEO of Matriarc, a health and wellness app for moms, who reveals the number-one rule you should be following to determine the length of your HIIT workouts: "It’s very difficult to do high-intensity interval training that is longer than 30 minutes, because you won’t be able to maintain the level of intensity you need to get the benefit of the workout," she says. "If you’re not breathing incredibly heavy, and feeling like you can’t go any further, then you’re not doing HIIT properly."
Ugh. I guess all those times when I tried to sneak in a few Instagram-scrolling breaks in between circuits kind of took the whole "high-intensity" part out of high-intensity interval training altogether. No more Insta breaks for me (or you, fam).
During HIIT, Arndt says, the goal is to work as hard as you physically can, which usually ends up being 30 minutes max, for most people.
If you try to push your body past that point (which would probably feel nearly impossible anyway, assuming you're doing the moves correctly), Ardnt says it really won't do you any favors. "[If someone were to attempt] a long HIIT workout, there would be increased injury risk," she tells Elite Daily. "These types of workouts are high-impact on your joints as well, and should be kept short and concise for that reason." Respect the joints, people. Respect them!
And it's not just Ardnt that cautions against a long HIIT circuit. Monica Lam-Feist, an ACE-certified personal trainer and the fitness lead at AlgaeCal, agrees that longer HIIT workouts aren't the way to go, and she also supports the under-30-minute rule, adding that "high-intensity" equates to high-stress — and while, when it comes to exercise, this can be seen as a good thing, it also inevitably places strain on your body.
"When doing HIIT, you’re putting your body in 'fight-or-flight mode,' which can elevate your stress hormones," Lam-Feist tells Elite Daily. "Extending your HIIT workouts or participating in more than a few each week can set you up for overtraining — which can lead to poor sleep, recovery, and feeling fatigued." Sounds like the exact opposite of what you would want, no?
That's why Arndt advises against doing HIIT workouts every single day. Instead, she says, your body needs a balance of high-impact and low-impact exercise, along with recovery, stretching, and strength training.
When it comes down to it, going all-out to maximum capacity and feeling your muscles literally quiver (even if it's for a short amount of time) just doesn't work for some people — much like some people hate the agony of getting their brows waxed and avoid it at all costs, you feel me?
So, if HIIT doesn't really sound like it's for you, and you know you prefer longer workouts that allow you to take your time, Arndt says there are plenty of other moves you can try. "For any exercise longer than 30 minutes, I recommend using a model called steady-state exercise, where you keep a moderate pace the entire time," she tells Elite Daily. Some examples of steady-state workouts, per POPSUGAR, include light jogging on the treadmill, cycling on a stationary bike at a moderate pace, and even dancing — and honestly, those all sound way more fun than burpee intervals, so why not give 'em a shot?