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Add a Boost to Your Workout Routine

Walking: Young Woman on a Country RoadLooking to get a little more out of your spring exercise routine? Add a burst of energy to your workouts to reduce your risk for cancer and be more fit. Here’s how.

High Intensity Interval Training (also known as HIIT) is a great way to add some variety to your current exercise routine. HIIT describes the intensity – or level of difficulty – of an activity.

At some point during your walk, for example, you would pick up the pace for a few minutes, then slow back down to your original pace. That’s how a HIIT workout incorporates short bursts of intense activity followed by periods of recovery. And the HIIT approach can be incorporated into almost any type of aerobic activity that raises your heart rate safely over a period of time.

Why Bother?

Mark Erickson, Personal Trainer and Senior Fitness Specialist at Premier Fitness Trainers in Boston, says, "A HIIT workout offers the benefits of a traditional cardio workout performed at a continuous pace, but it takes less time.

You may also enjoy your workout more." Why? Erickson believes it’s because of the variety and creativity involved in a HIIT workout. "You don’t have to do the same thing over and over again. You can constantly be creative with your routine."

Set Up Your Own Challenge

The term "high intensity" might sound intimidating, but research has found HIIT exercise is safe for all age groups and can safely improve fitness even in people with heart disease.

"The goal is to make it challenging for you," notes Erickson. "The intensity can be modified to meet the needs of someone at nearly any fitness level."

Start Slowly

If you have or are at risk for heart disease or if you have ever been given chemotherapy (some of which may impact the structure and function of your heart), you should consult your healthcare provider before beginning HIIT.

Just like any new activity, start slowly and increase gradually. HIIT workouts are more exhaustive than continuous-paced cardio workouts, so you’ll need more time for your body to recover. The American College of Sports Medicine suggests starting with one HIIT workout per week and adding a second when you feel ready. Plan a couple of days’ rest between HIIT workouts.

Not sure how to get started? Mark Erickson offers these HIIT workout suggestions. Note: begin and end all workouts below with a 10 minute warm-up and cool-down.

Burst/Recovery intervals should be repeated 3–5 times during a workout.

Outdoor Walk

  • 2 minute Activity Burst* Walk up a flight of stairs, do step-ups on a curb, or simply increase your pace.
  • 4 minute Recovery Walk on a flat surface at a comfortable pace.

Treadmill Workout

  • 2 minute Activity Burst Increase the incline or resistance level, or simply increase your pace.
  • 4 minute Recovery Reduce incline, resistance, and/or speed to very comfortable pace.


*Activity bursts should feel "hard to very hard"

No. 127, Spring 2015

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