Here’s a guide for fat people who want to do HIIT: high intensity interval training.

Yes, fat people can do HIIT safely and lose tons of weight this way.

When I was a personal trainer I’d have my very plus-size clients doing HIIT.

There is no medical reason why a clinically healthy overweight person cannot or should not do high intensity interval training (HIIT).

Though HIIT is often applied to very fast running (sprinting), this doesn’t mean that running is the only way to perform this super fat-burning type of workout.

When it comes to high intensity interval training, it’s all about effort, not performance or speed.

Thus, a good HIIT workout for someone who’s very overweight could be simply walking as fast as possible up a slight street hill, then turning around and slowly walking back to the starting point to recover, then walking as fast as they can back up that hill.

This will be enough to really exhaust them, even though running or high speeds are not involved.

More Options

Overweight individuals who hate the idea of having to walk as fast as possible can do high intensity interval training on a stationary bike or elliptical trainer.


This means pedaling as fast as possible for 30 seconds, then pedaling nice and easy for 1-2 minutes before blasting out another 30 seconds.

The 30 seconds can be based purely on pedaling speed with a light pedal tension, or, you can increase pedal tension and work as much as possible against the tension – this would not be your fastest pedaling in the absolute sense, but it would be your fastest against that particular tension setting.

The bottom line is that the settings for that 30 second segment are such that 30 seconds leaves you nearly breathless.

Additional HIIT Modes

  • Cardio rowing machine
  • Stepping platform (very low height)
  • Marching in place while holding small dumbbells
  • Stair climbing

Safety of HIIT for Fat Men and Women

If you’re overweight and concerned about the safety of high intensity interval training on your heart, you should get a thorough evaluation by a cardiologist which includes a cardiac stress test.

If an overweight person is worried about their joints, then they can do high intensity interval training on a stationary bike, elliptical machine or revolving staircase, which provide low impact to the knees and lower back.

By definition, HIIT is very intense, so intense that you can’t exceed 30 or so seconds for each work interval.

What can be done in water such that, after 30 seconds, it’s impossible to continue? Hardcore lap swimming.

If an overweight person can swim with grueling intensity, then they should do this for HIIT.

However, simply walking in the pool holding Styrofoam “dumbbells” is not intense enough to qualify as HIIT.

Remember, this article is about high intensity interval training, not just any movement.

An overweight person can safely perform high intensity interval training by walking inclines, as this, too, produces minimal impact.

However, if you hold onto a treadmill while walking, this will cancel out the incline as well as the general effect of walking, and you’ll end up getting no results and likely bad “molding” of your spine. Swing your arms instead.

WRONG. Continuous holding onto a treadmill will not trigger fat loss, nor will it produce a difference in fitness and stamina in daily living where you don’t hang onto anything while walking.

HIIT is very doable for very plus-size men and women of all ages.

Lorra Garrick is a former personal trainer certified through the American Council on Exercise. At Bally Total Fitness she trained women and men of all ages for fat loss, muscle building, fitness and improved health. 



Top image: Shutterstock/ MarcusVDT