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I have done steady rate cardio for the bulk of my cardio exercises. I recently found out about HIIT and it's after burner effect and am interested to give it a try.

I am still apprehensive about trying it out because of the high heart rate doing it would involve. The reason why I am apprehensive is because of people like Dr. Maffetone and his Maffetone method which cautions of having too high heart rates during exercise. Maffetone method in a nutshell advocates very low heart rates when doing cardio.

Is HIIT really safe for the long term ?

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Yes, it is safe for the long term and no problem for you heart or joints, see Why your workout should be high-intensity.

Regarding injuries in general, see the study of 300 patients with rheumatoid arthritis. This group is more sensitive than healthy people to damage of the large joints. After two years of study, there was no damage.

On a personal level, I have been doing high intensity workouts about once a week since the age of 11. My experience is that injuries of joints and/or heart failures occur when you do it in a "no pain - no gain" context, i.e. team sports or races.

However, before starting a high intensity program, do a health check up and start with small, short doses.

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    Once a week is not the same as using HIIT as your main basis of training. The jury is still out as far as long term (15+ years), as it has not been around as a concept and fad for that long. – JohnP Dec 11 '15 at 20:12

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