What are the risks of HIIT workouts for women?
HIIT can support cardiovascular and metabolic health, a 2019 study suggested, but a lot of this research has been conducted on men. It’s difficult to know the health benefits of these workouts and how well they work for a woman’s body and overall health.
But, as with many types of exercise, there are risks, including overtraining and injury, according to Serena Poon, C.N., C.H.C., a certified nutritionist based in Los Angeles.
“People with cardiovascular conditions should definitely check with their doctor before starting a HIIT program,” Poon said.
Should you attempt HIIT workouts if you have PCOS?
HIIT workouts can be beneficial to women with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) as they can support cardiovascular health and improve insulin sensitivity and menstrual cycles, a 2022 study suggested.
However, overdoing high-intensity interval training can also spike cortisol levels, which can lead to changes in body composition, such as weight gain for women with PCOS.
“Cortisol levels as they relate to PCOS would be more concerning in an overtraining situation where cortisol levels would be elevated for a prolonged period of time.” Poon said. Cortisol rates tend to already be elevated in women with PCOS, indicated by a small 2022 study.
But for women engaged in HIIT, who aren’t overtraining, it could provide better improvements in areas including insulin sensitivity and aerobic capacity, or the amount of oxygen your body can use at one time, over moderate exercise, suggested another 2022 study.
Women with PCOS can struggle with weight gain due to insulin resistance. HIIT could help support wellness in women with PCOS. Speak with your doctor to learn how to balance your HIIT workouts to gain the most potential benefits.
What are signs you should cut back on your HIIT workouts?
The biggest risk with HIIT workouts for women is overtraining, which can lead to fatigue, injury, heart issues and reduced cell function.
“If you have been engaging in a lot of HIIT workouts and feel tired, sluggish, overly sore, or are getting injured or sick a lot, it might make sense to let your body rest and recover and then either pull back in volume from your HIIT routine or find another mode of exercise,” Poon said.
If you find you cannot properly rest between sets, this could be a sign your body is not able to recover from the demands of the exercise.