Exercisers seeking a greater bang for their workout buck should consider high-intensity interval training, according to an expert presenting today at the American College of Sports Medicine's 15th-annual Health & Fitness Summit & Exposition.

Michael Bracko, Ed.D., FACSM, said high-intensity interval training (HIIT) can boost metabolism and accelerate weight loss. During HIIT, a person consumes more oxygen than in slower, distance exercise, which can increase post-exercise metabolism. Research has shown one session of HIIT can burn calories for 1.5 - 24 hours after exercise.

"The real advantage of HIIT versus distance training is that you can get the same benefits - such as fat loss, improved muscle cell function, increased oxygen consumption and improved anaerobic capacity - but you don't have to exercise as long," said Bracko.

HIIT divides a workout into two speeds - intense and rest - and alternates them for a defined period of time. For example, a person could alternate 60 seconds of walking and 60 seconds of sprinting for 25 minutes. HIIT is not limited to running, however. It can be done biking, skating, weight-lifting, stair-climbing and more.

"I do sprint intervals with my dog," said Bracko. "I throw a stuffed duck, she chases it, and I chase her. It's a blast!"

This type of exercise is not right for everyone. While HIIT is safe for most people - from healthy adults to patients with coronary heart disease - it does come with an increased risk of injury and may not be safe for some.

"HIIT can be crazy hard, and it's not for everyone," said Bracko. "Always warm up for a long time before starting the intervals. If you have an injury, or if you have not been cleared to exercise, please do not begin a HIIT program until those are resolved."

American College of Sports Medicine