Why HIIT could be doing more harm than good

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We’ve been told that getting our heart rate up is great and that short bursts of exercise can be beneficial for weight loss and our heart health. But actually, there’s a downside to high intensity interval training (HIIT) – and it could be putting stress on your body where you may not expect…


Anisha Joshi is an osteopath, which means she is basically a physio, chiropractor and sports massage therapist rolled into one. Years of training has given her the skills to diagnose patients’ musculoskeletal pains and injuries and the high palpation skills in order to fix them.

When it comes to spinal healthcare, what Anisha wants to emphasis is just how important it is. “80 per cent of people are likely to have back pain at some point in their life. So why are we not doing more to prevent it now?” she says. “We only have one spine, and it’s imperative that people recognise how to look after the one we’ve got. Spinal problems can start from a young age where just carrying a rucksack can cause certain muscles to get tighter than others and cause early onset alignment problems.”

And it’s not just old people who suffer, whatever you may think. “More and more young people, I guess millennials are coming in for treatment because they are experiencing problems and just don’t know what to do about it. The increase in smart phones providing our work emails, our entertainment and socialising means if you look around on any public transport you will find everyone’s heads looking down into their lap. Our heads were not created to be in constant flexion and this predisposes people to tight neck and shoulders and headaches,” Anisha says.


And a key cause of spinal issues is HIIT training. It’s not that this type of workout itself is problematic, Anisha says – on the contrary, she’s a fan. But, “the problem is when people have issues in their spine or pelvis, like being misaligned, and then they decide to do HIIT training. This can really predispose a person to injury as their spine isn’t functioning as it should. It can even exacerbate hip, knee and ankle problems from where a person is weight bearing on more side than the other.”

Photo: Anisha Joshi

Working out in the gym without knowing exactly what you’re doing can be really dangerous, Anisha says. “Lower back pain and sciatica has become very common in recent years. This seems to occur when people go to the gym and start lifting weights without the proper knowledge to do so. They also may be ‘out of line’ and this can increase the pressure on their lower back and cause issues. Shockingly I’ve seen more young people in the last three years that have slipped a disc in their spine.”

Anisha’a advice is before attempting any kind of HIIT class, “get your alignment checked first, whether you have pain or not. Don’t forget we all go to the dentist for check-ups whether we have tooth ache or not… the same works for your body.” Otherwise, you could ultimately do more harm than good.

By Charlotte

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Charlotte is a London girl through and through. She sweats through spin and puffs through Pilates to justify trying the latest restaurants and devouring copious amounts of sweet potato fries, burrata and bread – preferably on holiday. Her favourite destinations include Italy, the Maldives and anywhere where the sun’s shining and there’s a strong breakfast buffet. She’s obsessed with walking, visiting farmers’ markets and reading. She’s also learning to cook. Wish her (and her husband) luck.

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