What is HIIT Workout? A Guide to HIIT in Singapore 2023

Dr. James - Orthopaedic Surgeon in Singapore

Medically reviewed by Dr. James Tan

“I don’t have time to work out…Even back when I was getting up early to squeeze in a workout, I didn’t see results.” Sounds familiar? If you’ve got a packed schedule and are losing motivation, welcome to the club! Getting fit and healthy is a lot more complicated than most of us realise and it’s all too easy to give up when you don’t see results. Can these workouts change all that?

If you’ve been reading up on health and fitness news anytime over the past few years, you’ve certainly heard a lot about HIIT, or high-intensity interval training. In today’s fast-paced culture, a more effective workout in less time sounds like a dream come true. But, before you hit the gym, let’s take a moment to separate fact from fiction on the HITT trend.

What Is HIIT?

Fast, better, harder! Its routines are all about maximising every second to get the very best results from the quickest possible sweat session. It’s a training strategy that runners have been using for the past century as they’ve alternated between jogging and sprinting to boost their endurance. Over the past decade, fitness physiologists have released a long line of studies showing the promising results and it’s been garnering attention around the globe.

It’s crucial to note, however, that this doesn’t simply mean alternating between a fast and slow pace. “There’s a strict definition of HIIT in terms of heart rate,” said Todd Astorino, a kinesiology professor at California State University San Marcos. When researchers are talking about HIIT, they mean working at 80+ per cent of your maximum heart rate and then resting or moving to low-intensity workouts.

If you’re new, it’s important to take things slow and avoid pushing yourself too hard, as this can increase the risk of sports injury. Make sure to properly warm up your muscles and joints, and consider getting guidance from a professional to ensure you’re using proper form and technique to prevent shoulder pain, tennis elbow, and other common injuries.

Check out our shoulder pain treatment page if you are experiencing discomfort in the shoulders and speak with our professional orthopaedic doctors today.

Are HIIT Workouts Effective?

Overall, yes. If you are looking for a workout that will give you the best results in the shortest amount of time, this is a winner. According to the American College of Sports Medicine, these workouts were chosen by fitness pros as one of the best current fitness trends. Another such trend is F45, where you have do a series of high-intensity workouts in 45 minutes. Harvard has tagged it as the “faster route to fitness” while a Norwegian study declared that HIIT can help you live longer

If experts around the world have been singing its praises for years, are these workouts the best way to get fit? Of course, like everything in the world of health and fitness, the story is not so simple. On top of understanding the benefits of HIIT workouts, it’s essential to look at the cons of high-intensity exercise.

What Are the Disadvantages of HIIT Training?

In Singapore, doctors have been seeing a wave of injuries such as shoulder injuries, rotator cuff tears and knee injuries and that trend has been mirrored across the world.  A recent headline proclaimed that too much training could be doing more harm than good. It seems that too much of a good thing can indeed be a bad thing.

Read more: Will ACL Tear Heal on Its Own?

This is one of the fundamental lessons: go hard, but not for too long.  According to sports therapist Barry Sigrist, the key is to work within the right ratios. This means 20-minute sessions where you are working for 30 seconds at your maximum (or, ideally with a smartwatch or activity tracker that will show when you’re at 80 per cent of your max heart rate) then break for 60 seconds.

It might feel strange to push for only 30 seconds and then rest for 60 seconds but that’s the secret to success. This is what gives your muscles the time they need to renew their levels of oxygen and glycogen. If you rest too much, however, you’ll start breaking down muscle tissue.

Is It OK To Do HIIT Every Day?

Definitely not. When it comes to training, it’s key to remember that intervals of rest are just as important as intervals of high-intensity work. According to the Mayo Clinic, you should aim for one to two workout sessions a week. Of course, that doesn’t mean that you should be lounging on the sofa snacking the other five to six days a week! Instead, focus on the golden rules of moderation and variety.

Don’t overwhelm your body with high-intensity workouts daily or you might experience injuries such as bone spurs and muscle fatigue. Look to strength training and low-intensity cardio on your off days such as yoga and pilates. Focus on keeping your body moving and doing regular stretches rather than driving to the maximum level every day. Be sure to stretch before working out to reduce the chances of getting muscle cramps and injuries.

Is HIIT a Good Way to Lose Weight?

Yep! If you’re looking for a quick weight to burn calories, these workouts are the gold standard. Compared to MICT (moderate-intensity continuous training) workouts like jogging or cycling, it will do more for you in less time. According to studies, shorter sessions will help you lose weight just as effectively as longer MICT sessions.

While training for weight loss doesn’t guarantee overnight success, it does mean that you could get the same results with a 20-minute HIIT workout as you might get with a 40-minute run. If you’re looking to drop weight and strengthen your core, you can choose either one or a mix of both and see good results.

Before you start, however, you need to know the basics. New fitness enthusiasts often get lost in the world of exercise trends (and it’s easy to understand why) so let’s keep it simple: wondering if you will lose more weight running or doing an intensive routine? Be aware that on a minute-to-minute basis, it gives you a better workout, but it’s not the only way.

One of the benefits of such workouts is that they can be customized to suit your needs and fitness level. If you have knee arthritis or shoulder pain, for example, you may want to choose exercises that are low-impact and place less stress on your joints and not risk knee or shoulder dislocation.

If you are experiencing pain in the knee due to age, perhaps it is time to talk to our orthopaedic specialists and manage knee arthritis pain with treatment.

Which Is Better: HIIT or Cardio?

As any trainer will tell you, the best workout is the one you love. If you would rather cycle down a shady trail for an hour than face a 30-minute high-intensity workout, cycling is the best workout for you in terms of sustainability.

Those who don’t mind a serious sweat session will be rewarded with improved cardiorespiratory fitness though. Research from teams in Queensland, Australia, and Trondheim, Norway found that HIIT provides nearly double the cardiorespiratory fitness as a medium-intensity continuous training session of jogging or cycling.

Does HIIT Burn Belly Fat?

According to Sigrist, these workouts tell your body to release human growth hormones and testosterone. That’s important because those are the two of the key players in metabolising fat. Those often dreaded exercises like burpees that push you to your absolute limit are what create the hormonal response that burns fat. By pushing yourself for 15 to 30 seconds at your max, you’ll be in an anaerobic state and producing lactic acid while releasing adrenaline that’ll push your body to burn fat while building muscles.

How Long Does HIIT Take to Show Results?

A range of studies has shown the quick power of HIIT workouts. The average person trying it regularly for the first time can expect to see results within as few as four sessions. If you don’t already exercise regularly, you might feel your progress with every workout.

As always, however, it’s essential to remember that exercise needs to work in conjunction with a healthy diet. If you’re eating more calories than you’re burning, you’re slowing down the process.

What Happens to Your Body After HIIT?

Another acronym you’ll see if you read about HIIT for long enough is EPOC (Post-Exercise Oxygen Consumption). This so-called “afterburn effect” is your body’s way of cooling down after an intensive workout. After your session, your body works to rebalance your hormones while repairing muscle tissue and cells.

While the repair process is something that your body will do on autopilot as you go on with your day, you need to know about it because it’ll continue your calorie burn. The more intense your workout is, the longer your body will fight to repair itself and the more calories you’ll burn

Is HIIT Better Than Weight Training?

This depends on your goal. Weight training like deadlifts will help you boost your strength, while they are good for your overall health and overall cardiovascular health. The best option for you depends on where you are on the journey.

According to Dr Connolly at Plymouth University, if you’re completely new to exercise, you may want to start with lower-intensity workouts and then make your way up. If you’re middle-aged or older and looking to stay healthy, this is a good starting point. For older adults and athletes, it’s essential to consider as well, however, that weight training strengthens your joints, muscles, and bones and HIIT workouts have a slightly higher risk of ankle injuries. If you are hurt while working out, it is recommended to visit a orthopaedic doctor to diagnose and treat your ankle injuries as soon as possible.

If you’re looking to lose weight, it’s crucial to look at the value of weight training. More weight training means more lean muscle mass which means higher metabolism. If you’ve ever seen anyone who seems to be able to eat whatever they want without gaining weight, you’re looking at someone with a lot of lean muscle mass.

If you want to be lean and toned, look at a blend of HIIT and weight training. And, remember that HIIT should be limited to no more than twice a week, be careful not to over-do it to ensure that you do not experience lower back pain or a torn meniscus. Opt for weight training and lower-impact workouts during the rest of the week.

Is HIIT Worth It?

If you’ve come this far, you are probably interested enough to try a few workout sessions. Experiment with different workout classes at the gym or just tune into a YouTube video. Explore different workouts and see what you enjoy.

Bottom line: The best workout is the one you do! Run 40 minutes, do a 20-minute HIIT session, or lift weights for 30 minutes. Want to truly get in the best shape of your life? Do all three types of workouts weekly! 

Looking for a Reliable Orthopaedic Doctor in Singapore?

If you’re experiencing aches and pains after your workout, it is best to seek orthopaedic treatment in Singapore. These professionals will uncover the root of the problem and will determine whether physiotherapy or orthopaedic surgery is best for your condition. If you’re suitable for physiotherapy, your doctor will create a long-term training routine to further boost your shoulder mobility and build strength in your limbs.

Meanwhile, you can learn about the differences between a chiropractor, osteopath and physiotherapist to find the best treatment for your injury, or learn abut the differences between chiropractors and orthopaedic doctors.

To get started, you can book an appointment online with our orthopaedic clinic in Singapore and ask for Dr James Tan.

If you’d like to find us directly, visit one of our clinics below:

Camden Medical

1 Orchard Boulevard, #09-06

Singapore 248649

Mount Alvernia Hospital

820 Thomson Road

Medical Centre D #05-60

Singapore 574623

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Dr. James - Orthopaedic Surgeon in Singapore

About the Author

Dr James Tan is a highly skilled orthopaedic surgeon who has more than 10 years of experience in sports surgery and exercise medicine. He is a member of the elite Asian Shoulder and Elbow Group and a founding member of the Singapore Shoulder and Elbow Surgery Society.

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