HIIT – high intensity interval training – has been the trend of the fitness industry for much of the last decade. High-intensity interval training is combined with aerobics, weight lifting and calisthenics at the maximum capacity, followed by short rest periods which deliver fitness goals in less time. A typical HIIT workout might be 30 seconds of intense exercise, followed by 30 seconds rest, repeated for 10 rounds.
One of the major benefits of HIIT is that people can get an intense workout, in a relatively short period of time. Some fitness experts have also claimed that HIIT helps to burn more calories than typical steady-state cardio such as jogging on a treadmill or using the cross trainer and is therefore more beneficial for weight loss than other forms of exercise. However, a new study by Rutgers University has revealed that people who frequently perform HIIT workouts are more likely to get injured.
The study, published in the Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness, analysed records in the National Electronic Surveillance System from 2007 through 2016. Researchers found 3,988,902 injuries related to HIIT exercises, including injuries from commonly used equipment, like kettlebells and barbells, and from calisthenics like burpees, push-ups, and lunges. Men aged 20 to 29 accounted for most of the injuries, and knees, ankles, and shoulders were found to be at the greatest risk of injury. There was also an increase in internal organ injuries, concussions, strains and sprains, nerve damage, dislocations, and puncture wounds.
The researchers believe a rise in the popularity of HIIT workouts, as determined by analyzing Google search data, might explain this spike in injuries. “These workouts are marketed as ‘one size fits all.’ However, many athletes, especially amateurs, do not have the flexibility, mobility, core strength and muscles to perform these exercises,” said study co-author Dr. Joseph Ippolito, physician in the department of orthopedics at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School. That’s not to say that researchers believe HIIT workouts are bad or that people should stop doing them altogether. It’s generally people who do HIITs without supervision who are at a higher risk of getting hurt, mainly thanks to poor form and muscle overuse.
“We certainly do not want to discourage people from this type of exercise because of its numerous health benefits, but recommend that they understand the pre-existing conditions and physical weaknesses that may predispose them to injury,” said study co-author Nicole D. Rynecki, a student at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School, in a press release. One other way to prepare yourself for HIITs is to pretrain for them, says Rynecki, with exercises that focus on balance, strength, and jumping — these will help ready you for the demands of HIITs.
And don’t forget to stretch: “Exercises such as stretches that can increase range of motion and strengthen rotator cuff muscles are important, especially for older people and those who are predisposed to rotator cuff tears,” she said. Before taking on any new protocols or group fitness classes, it’s important to speak with a trainer or instructor about pre-existing injuries or weaknesses to ensure you don’t get hurt.