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HIIT vs. Tabata: Which Workout Is for Me?

“I just have too much free time, so I think I’ll spend hours at the gym,” said no one ever.

Exercise makes us look and feel great, but sometimes it feels impossible to fit it into an already jammed-packed schedule. Want some good news? You can shred serious fat, improve strength, endurance and your health in just 30 minutes or less a few times a week! How? It’s all about intervals.

What Is HIIT?

HIIT (high-intensity interval training) is all the rage, and with good reason — it works!

It goes like this:

  • Do 20 to 90 seconds of high-intensity exercise. Aim for a 9 on the Perceived Exertion Scale.
  • Rest for twice as long as you exert yourself — for example, a 20-second burst followed by 40 seconds of rest. Active rest like slowly marching in-place is great.
  • Repeat for 20 to 30 minutes.

HIIT workouts don’t require any equipment and can be done anywhere. You can run, bike, jump rope, do lunges or burpees — there are so many options to keep it interesting, fun and effective. Check out a sample HIIT workout from OhioHealth’s Grant Health and Fitness Center exercise physiologists.

For optimal results, aim for three high-intensity interval workouts plus two moderate cardio workouts a week.

Benefits of HIIT Workouts

HIIT workouts get your heart rate up and keep it there. Your body has to work hard to get back to your “resting state.” This burns more fat and calories in less time than steady-paced workouts. It also boosts your metabolism for up to 48 hours after you exercise. HIIT can improve endurance, speed up metabolism, regulate insulin levels and help you achieve and maintain a healthy weight.

What Is Tabata?

Tabata is a specific type of HIIT workout. It uses shorter high-intensity intervals with even shorter rest periods.

It works like this:

  • 20 seconds of 100 percent all-out high-intensity exercise
  • 10 seconds of rest
  • Repeat for four minutes to complete one Tabata

You can incorporate one or two Tabatas in your workout, or you can do a full Tabata workout. A full Tabata workout includes a 10-minute warm-up, three complete Tabatas and a cool down. Be sure to rest a minute or two between Tabatas. You can repeat the same exercises each time, or mix it up. The entire workout should last about 30 minutes. Consider downloading a Tabata timer app to make it easier to keep track of your time.

Benefits of Tabata Workouts

Tabata workouts burn fat, boost metabolism and build muscle. They also improve your aerobic and anaerobic energy systems. That means you’ll be able to work out harder and longer. As with other HIIT workouts, you don’t need any special equipment so you can do it anywhere. The extreme high intensity means that you don’t need to spend a long time doing it, and it’s recommended that you only do one or two Tabata workouts a week — with rest days between. Check out some Tabata workout routines.

HIIT and Tabata Warnings

Tabata is an extremely intense and advanced form of exercise. It’s not the right choice for beginners. If you’re new to exercising, begin with lighter interval training and gradually work your way up to Tabata.

With HIIT or Tabata workouts, it’s important to listen to your body. If you’re too winded, take extra breaks or longer rest periods. If you feel pain, try a different exercise or stop your workout. If you’re new to exercise, it’s always a good idea to check with your doctor first to make sure you’re healthy enough for it.

Want to dive into some workouts from OhioHealth exercise experts? Check here!!


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