We’ve been promoting the benefits of high-intensity interval training (HIIT) for years. It gets you in shape faster, is better for your heart, and helps you lose weight more efficiently than other types of workouts.
And it turns out that HIIT has another important benefit: It prevents migraine headaches.
Researchers at the University of Basel, Switzerland randomly divided migraine suffers into three groups. One group did short bursts of high-intensity exercise. Another did longer stretches of moderate exercise. The third group did not exercise at all.
The HIIT participants performed four 4-minute sprints. It brought their heart rate up to 95% of the maximum. They followed the sprints with cool down of three minutes of jogging at 75% of their maximum heart rate.1
The moderate exercise group jogged steadily for 45 minutes. Their target heart rate was 70-75% of their maximum.
Both groups did their workouts twice a week for 12 weeks.
For four weeks before the study and during it, participants kept a “headache diary” that detailed any migraines they suffered.
The researchers found that HIIT reduced migraines by about 80%. The moderate exercise group had a reduction of about 25%.
Researcher Alice Minghetti of the University of Basel led the study. She said HIIT reduces migraines by dilating arteries. Because your heart pumps so vigorously, your blood vessels open wider. Blood vessel dilation prevents and relieves migraines, she noted.
“We also had (dilation) in the moderate group, but not as intensely,” she said.
The fact that HIIT requires less time is a big advantage. “Especially for people who are busy or actually enjoy high intensity… it’s a better exercise regimen,” she said.
5 Reasons to Switch to High-Intensity Interval Training
HIIT is all about maximizing results while minimizing time in the gym. The average session lasts 20 minutes or less.
Here are five reasons to switch to HIIT:2
- Eases Depression:One study found more than 60% of subjects doing HIIT cut their depression symptoms in half. It only took eight weeks to see results.
- Promotes Heart Health: Long hours of cardio exercise works against your heart. Marathon-style running can leave your heart scarred. This can lead to heart failure and even death. But HIIT works differently. Two weeks of HIIT raises your aerobic capacity—VO2max—just as much as two months of steady-state cardio. This puts less strain on your heart.
- Helps You Lose Weight Quicker:A Canadian study looked at the difference between HIIT and incline walking. Researchers found subjects burned twice as much fat with 12 minutes of HIIT than with an hour of uphill walking after six weeks.
- Reduces Stroke Risk: HIIT reduces your risk of stroke by as much as 63%.Research shows HIIT increases oxygen uptake and aerobic capacity. These two factors can help prevent a repeat stroke.
- Extends Your Life: Switching to HIIT lowers your overall death risk by about 30%.
The basic formula for HIIT is simple. Warm up for 3 to 5 minutes…then sprint at an all-out pace for the next 30 to 60 seconds. Then slow to a jog for the next minute or two. Repeat this process 5 to 7 times and then cool down for at least two minutes.
It only takes about 15 minutes. And you can apply the HIIT principal to just about any type of cardio exercise. A treadmill, bike, elliptical machine, or swimming all work well.