High Intensity Interval Training: Top Training Trend or Fitness Fad?

American College of Sports Medicine reveals HIIT as top fitness trend for 2014

According to more than 3,800 fitness professionals, High Intensity Interval Training will trump all other forms of exercise in 2014. Released today, The American College of Sports Medicine's Worldwide Survey of Fitness Trends 2014 revealed the top 20 fitness trend predictions for the year to come.

The survey was first introduced by ACSM in 2007. Since 2008, "Educated, Certified, and Experienced Fitness Professionals" consistently held the number one spot as the next year's top fitness trend, which makes a lot of sense given the majority of survey responders happen to be certified fitness professionals. But this year the professionals decided differently. They voted HIIT into the number one spot and bumped previously buzz-worthy fitness fads like Zumba, Pilates, and Spinning off the list entirely, indicating those exercise modes might better be classified as fads rather than lasting trends. 

Given the popularity of high intensity interval workout programs like "Insanity" and "P90X" over the past year, the survey's results aren't all too surprising. HIIT workout programs are popular because they're effective and they deliver results. Interval training improves both aerobic and anaerobic fitness, and exercisers who are crunched for time love HIIT for its ability to torch a significant amount of calories in a relatively short amount of time. 

"With the popularity of CrossFit, it is no surprise that High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) made its first appearance on the 2014 Worldwide Survey of Fitness Trends in the no. 1 position," wrote Leah E. Robinson, Ph.D., associate professor and director of the Pediatric Movement and Physical Activity Laboratory, School of Kinesiology in Alabama. 

Speaking of CrossFit, The American Council on Exercise recently released the results of a study they commissioned, which evaluated the effectiveness of the increasingly popular workout routine and found that those who participate in the program (or other similar high intensity interval training workouts) typically experience a greater increase in aerobic capacity as compared to traditional aerobic training. 

Of course, HIIT isn't the only form of effective exercise out there, and just because it's popular doesn't mean it's for everyone. One survey respondent explained“I work with a high risk clinical population. A lot of my patients have heard about these programs and think this would be a way to get more fit at a faster rate. We do a lot of work explaining why it isn’t appropriate for them.” 

Plus, high rates of injury are one of biggest drawbacks to any type of high-intensity exercise. The average exerciser is probably not prepared to go all out right away. "The thing we’ve seen with a lot of these workouts is you go flat-out as fast as you can, but then your form falls apart. You really need to be technically correct with a lot of these exercises or else you’re going to get hurt," said John Porcari, Ph.D., head of the University of Wisconsin's Clinical Exercise Physiology program and a lead researcher in the ACE study. One study specifically emphasized HIIT's ability to improve the performance of well-trained endurance athletes whose exercise programs already include high training volumes.

At the end of the day, there's no question as to whether or not HIIT is a highly efficient and beneficial form of exercise. But whether it will last as a top training trend or flicker out like forgotten fitness fad, only time will tell.