Elliptical HIIT: The Multitude of Benefits

Beginners as well as fit athletes can benefit from doing elliptical HIIT or High Intensity Interval Training workouts.

Though it is more often associated with running wind sprints, this highly effective workout is easily adapted to other styles of exercise from inline skating and biking, to indoor exercise machines including the elliptical trainer, treadmill, spinning bike, and the rest.

What is It?

HIIT workouts are short and direct. Taking no more than 15 or 20 minutes, the workouts will force your body into anaerobic energy production. This is an ideal weight loss state where the body uses anaerobic glycolysis to break down carbohydrates for fuel.

An elliptical HIIT workout, done 3 or more times per week, will include: a 5-minute warm-up, followed by the high intensity phase featuring a series of short intense bursts of pedaling lasting 15 to 30 seconds, each followed by a minute of rest. The object is to go all out in an intense burst of energy until you are spent, doing a short recovery, then going all out again, and again.

Each recovery period in between the bursts lasts just long enough for you to catch your breath and for your heart rate to go back to a cardio high of about 120 to 140 beats per minute. Keep the recovery time to about a 2-to-1 or 3-to-1 ratio: for example, do a 30-second burst, followed by a 90-second recovery, another 30-second burst, recovery, and so on.

You may only be able to do 5 or 6 reps the first time you try HIIT on the elliptical, but gradually you will develop the stamina to build up to longer and more intense sessions of 10 or more reps. After doing the intervals, cool down for 5 or 10 minutes.

Why it Works

With moderate or low intensity exercise, your heart beats at about 65% of your maximum heart rate. During a high intensity exercise period, the object is to get your cardio up to about 85% of your maximum heart rate. While it is true that you do burn less calories during a 15-minute HIIT elliptical workout than if you had spent 40 minutes on the elliptical, studies show that the high intensity session causes the body to burn more fat for the rest of the day.

Studies have compared HIIT programs to MIC or Moderate Intensity Cardio programs and concluded that while MIC burns more calories, HIIT provides the best subcutaneous fat-loss benefit for every calorie burned during exercise: “The subcutaneous fat loss was nine fold greater in the HIIT program than in the MIC program.” (Tremblay, et al; Metabolism, 1994, Volume 43, pp.814-818.)

The reason for this is EPOC or Excess Post-exercise Oxygen Consumption. Studies show that HIIT workouts causes metabolism to stay elevated for 24 to 38 hours after the session, dramatically burning calories all during that time. In comparison, a low intensity aerobic workout will only raise metabolism briefly, perhaps lasting an hour after your stop exercising, which means the calorie burn has stopped as well.

Give elliptical HIIT a try and see for yourself how an elevated metabolism lasting up to a day and half later will help you lose more belly fat than your previous workout of 20 minutes of moderate pedaling. The variety and change-up in your workout will provide positive results in your weight management goals and overall fitness level.

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