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HIIT Classes: The Benefits and Hidden Dangers

Written by Mr Amit Amin for Doctify

Barrecore, Barry’s Boot Camp, Soul Cycle, Frame – the list of trendy exercise classes on offer in London these days is seemingly endless. Among this myriad of Instagrammable fitness fads is HIIT. Not for the faint of heart, this hardcore class has attracted devotees in their droves. But are there any potential perils to consider before strapping on your Nikes and signing up? And are some of us better off sticking with Cat Yoga?

Here to tell us a little more about the benefits and drawbacks of high-intensity interval training is Mr Amit Amin, a top Doctify Orthopaedic Surgeon.

Why do HIIT in the first place?

High-intensity interval training (HIIT) is a cardiovascular exercise concept which alternates intense anaerobic exercise with short bursts of high-intensity drills. This is followed by lower intensity drills, up to the point of exhaustion.

As with most workouts, the recommended limit is 30 minutes as anything longer begins to reduce the effectiveness of the exertion. The upside to these workouts are the proven health benefits, such as improvement in cardiovascular fitness and glucose metabolism. The short sessions also have the added bonus of fitting in around busy schedules.

That all sounds positive, so what are the risks?

The dangers relate to people with poor initial conditioning pushing themselves to the limit. Doing this can be counter-productive and potentially do more harm than good.

Anyone thinking of embarking on HIIT classes should consider taking advice from a Sports Physiotherapist or a Personal Trainer, especially if their baseline level of fitness is poor.

How do I avoid injury?

HIIT classes are designed to be hard. They require careful preparation and a gradual increase in activity to avoid injury.

Setting aside enough time at the beginning to warm-up is essential. Twisting ankle injuries can occur as one tires, and patients who do not gradually increase the level of intensity of the workout are at risk of stress fractures in the lower limbs.

It is generally advisable to combine HIIT classes with more regular exercise like swimming, cycling and running.

How do you treat ankle injuries?

Sprained ankles are the most common musculoskeletal injury in sports so, unsurprisingly, HIIT participants are at risk of the odd twisted ankle.

Anyone who’s ever suffered this injury will know the traditional RICE protocol of rest, ice, compression and elevation. However, this has been replaced by a new acronym: ‘POLICE’, which stands for protection, optimum loading, ice, compression and elevation. The idea is that you need to protect the injured part, whether with crutches, a brace or a more formal ‘Moon boot’. But at the same time, early weight bearing in a protected fashion has been shown to aid the speed and quality of tissue healing.

Although POLICE is helpful, early assessment and treatment from a Sports Physiotherapist is key to a successful outcome.

Are there any good forms of exercise when recovering from a muscle or bone injury?

Recovery from any injury that limits weight-bearing ability or movement, is very frustrating – especially for those who exercise regularly.

Quite often there are still activities that can be performed safely during the recovery phase. With lower limb injuries, you can still do upper body exercises in the gym, and vice-versa. Static cycling, for example would probably be allowed with an upper limb injury.

Even with a trauma, most people can often still do pilates and yoga if they make sure to avoid exercises that stress the injured part.

Swimming is probably the best exercise in the early recovery phase, due to the weightless environment and the cardiovascular benefits.

Clear advice on restrictions from the treating therapist or doctor is important to introduce exercise safely. In general, gradually increasing weight through the injured part, under the supervision of a Sports Physiotherapist is key.



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