We all want to reap the benefits of cardiovascular exercise. No matter what modality you prefer, elevating your heart rate is important. It can reduce belly fat, promote brain growth, prevent stress, promote focus, interrupt anxiety, and regulate depression. Often times, we think of cardiovascular training as super-long runs that take up half the day and leave us completely wasted afterwards. While there’s a point and purpose to that kind of steady-state training, it’s not the only way to get a good workout in.
Recently, high-intensity interval training, or HIIT, has burst onto the fitness and exercise scene. We used to call it interval training, but HIIT has a better ring to it. In short, HIIT involves alternating between very intense bouts of exercise and low intensity exercise. One example of HIIT would be sprinting for 30 seconds, and then walking for 60 seconds.
So – should we HIIT or keep it steady?
Let’s start with the benefits of steady-state cardiovascular training.
1. Great for beginners looking to build fitness – will benefit all aspects of exercise.
2. Very sustainable model of exercise – if you’re new to working out, sprinting isn’t the best start.
3. Can be done over a variety of modalities – running, walking, biking, swimming, and hiking.
Not a fan of steady-state? That’s fine. HIIT has some great health benefits, too.
1. Takes less time since intensity is high for short periods of work, so we do more with less
2. More fat burned when performing HIIT sessions
3. More calories burned after exercise due to the higher-intensity workouts.
Want to know the best plan? Incorporate both into your workout. Each kind of cardiovascular training benefits each other. Think of a marathon runner who is looking to improve their best time – they don’t just keep running farther and farther at the same speed. They mix up efforts at different speeds and distances to improve both their aerobic fitness and the power of their muscles under intense effort. Mixing up interval training and steady-state cardio can be the most balanced way to see gains in endurance and speed, while also improving body composition.
If you need more convincing, check out this quick comparison. It might be just what you need to figure out what works for you and what doesn’t.