Is HIIT Training Bad For Your Heart?

Over the last few years, HIIT training has become a staple of lots of people's workout routines, especially during the various global lockdowns when the gyms were closed and we suddenly found ourselves with more time on our hands than we knew what to do with...

What Is HIIT Training?

HIIT, or high-intensity interval training, is a type of workout that alternates between periods of intense effort and briefer rests or recovery periods.

HIIT workouts can be done with any type of exercise, including running, swimming, cycling, rowing, and even bodyweight movements like pushups and sit-ups.

Is HIIT Training Bad For Your Heart?

While HIIT training is an excellent way to improve your fitness and cardiovascular health, there is some concern that you could damage your heart by exercising too hard.

Due to the nature of this particular type of workout, your heart rate will go up and down very rapidly, which can put strain on the organ.

Research has suggested that HIIT workouts can cause a significant increase in blood pressure and heart rate, which could be dangerous for people with uncontrolled hypertension or other heart conditions.

It also concluded that HIIT training "should be prescribed with caution in patients with uncontrolled hypertension or known cardiovascular disease."

If you have a history of heart problems, it's important to talk to your doctor before starting any type of exercise program, including HIIT.

They can help you determine if HIIT is safe for you and, if so, what precautions you need to take.

If you're healthy and have no history of heart problems, HIIT is generally considered safe. However, it's always a good idea to warm up before any type of strenuous exercise, and be sure to listen to your body and stop if you feel any pain or discomfort.

Are men more at risk than women?

HIIT workouts are super-customisable and can be tailored to your fitness level, so both men and women can safely do them.

However, one study found that men may be more likely to experience adverse cardiovascular effects from HIIT than women.

It suggested that men had a greater increase in blood pressure and heart rate during HIIT than women, and they also took longer to return to their resting heart rate after the workout was over.

While the findings of this particular study need to be replicated in a larger sample size, it's still something to keep in mind.

What are the symptoms of an overworked heart?

If you're not sure whether you're pushing yourself too hard during HIIT, look out for these symptoms of an overworked heart:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest pain or tightness
  • Heart palpitations
  • Dizziness/lightheadedness
  • Nausea
  • Fatigue

If you experience any of these symptoms during HIIT, stop immediately and call your doctor.

Is HIIT Training Bad For Your Knees?

While HIIT is generally considered safe for your heart, there is some concern that it could be bad for your knees.

Due to the nature of the exercises involved in doing HIIT, a workout can range from low to high impact - which means there is a greater risk of joint injuries, particularly in the knees.

A study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research found that HIIT workouts can lead to an increased risk of knee injuries in people who already have knee problems.

If you have any sort of knee pain or injury, the best thing to do before anything else would be to have a word with your GP or a professional before having a crack at a HIIT workout.

Is HIIT Training Bad For Your Back?

There is also some concern that HIIT could be bad for your back.

Now, in theory, this could be said for any kind of exercise, however, the high-impact movements often involved in HIIT (such as jump squats and burpees) can put extra strain on your spine and the muscles and ligaments around it.

One study found that HIIT caused more lower back pain than MICT in people with chronic nonspecific low back pain. The researchers concluded that HIIT "should be used cautiously" in people with this condition.

Another study found that HIIT caused more upper back pain than MICT in people with acute nonspecific upper back pain.

While the findings of these studies are preliminary, they suggest that HIIT could be detrimental to your back, especially if you have a pre-existing condition. If you're concerned about your back, talk to your doctor before starting any type of exercise program.

Is HIIT Safe For High Blood Pressure?

If you already have high blood pressure or believe this to be an issue, you should speak with a doctor before starting anything, as different individuals will have different responses and needs.

Even if you don't have high blood pressure, it's important to monitor your heart rate while doing HIIT to make sure you're not overworking yourself.

What are the Dangers of HIIT Training?

HIIT workouts are generally considered "safe"; there are some additional aspects to consider before starting, however:

  • If you have any sort of cardiovascular issue, speak with a doctor before beginning any type of HIIT routine.
  • If you are new to working out, start slow. Ease into your workouts and gradually increase the intensity as your fitness level improves.
  • As mentioned above, be sure to monitor your heart rate during your workout. If you feel any sort of discomfort - such as chest pain, shortness of breath, dizziness, or nausea - stop immediately and seek medical attention.

Health and heart problems aside, how can you make your HIIT workout safer?

Warm-up before your workout; it will help prepare your body for the physical activity to come and help reduce your risk of injury.

Cool down after your workout; this will help your body recover from the intense exercise and reduce muscle soreness.

Make sure you're well-hydrated before, during, and after your workout; lack of hydration can lead to a whole host of problems, including dizziness, nausea, and fatigue.

In Summary

HIIT workouts are intense and not for everyone. But if you're healthy and have the green light from your doctor, they can be a great way to get in shape.

Just be sure to take the necessary precautions and start slow.

And as always, if you have any concerns, speak with a medical professional before starting any type of workout routine.

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