I am sneaking up on my tenth year as a fitness trainer, health coach, and wellness writer. Over the last nine years, high-intensity interval training has been extremely popular with both elite athletes and weekend warriors alike. I have written about it's effectiveness and gone on rants about how amazing HIIT training can be for both your health and fitness.
High-intensity interval training is usually done in short quick training sessions of 10 minutes to 20 minutes. Some fitness folks try to make it a 45 plus minute ordeal, but on average these are super short workouts intended to build strength, endurance and boost your metabolism.
Many people do high-intensity interval training as a way to burn calories and lose weight. There is a darker side to high-intensity interval training, especially for weight loss and folks who are out of shape who jump into HIIT to quickly. These people have experienced the unfortunate aspect of HIIT injuries. Pulled muscles, sprains and even more severe cardiac issues that can arise going from zero exercise to HIIT.
In recent years, a few studies have found that HIIT is not necessarily any more effective than moderate-intensity continuous training or (MICT) when it comes to getting in shape or losing weight. High-intensity interval training regimens may burn calories faster then moderate-intensity continuous exercise, but burning calories more quickly in a shorter workout does not equate to burning more calories.
Studies are finding the MICT does, in fact, seem to have a better long-term fitness outcome without the excessive risk of injury from HIIT regimens. The decision as to which is best for you to do somewhat comes down to what your training is for. If you're an athlete training for a competitive advantage in your sport and want quick bursts of speed and really develop your fast twitch muscles sets, then HIIT is a good choice.
If you're looking for a safe way to get in shape, increase your body's metabolic efficiency and lose a little weight, then MICT is safer and will have potentially longer lasting effects for your overall fitness.
Now it can be argued that HIIT regimens are better for anyone who does not have a lot of time for exercise and workouts. The trick to maintaining a balance of time and exercise is to mix in a few short sprints for the benefit of HIIT, then shorten your MICT regimen trying to get the best of both exercise sets.
Now to be clear on the differences between HIIT and MICT regarding improved cardiorespiratory fitness, HIIT regimens have shown to be much more effective when done in short moderated regimens. Some Cardiac healthcare professionals even use toned down versions of HIIT style programs for patients recovering from heart conditions such as coronary artery disease. Most healthcare and fitness professionals have concluded that HIIT is superior to MICT in improving aerobic fitness.
But again aerobic fitness is only part of the issue around overall fitness and weight loss. This is where MICT seems to have a better overall effect with general fitness. More people can achieve better fitness in the long haul with lower impact MICT regimens. In other words, MICT takes out the adverse effects of the impact and risks of HIIT regimens.
I know to some hard-hitting pain equals gain with fitness efforts. The reality is more than 80 percent of us are not equipped mentally or physically to handle any prolonged HIIT style programs. Even if a HIIT regimen does not result in injury, they are more likely to result in failure if you are not prepared.
I believe in a mix of high impact sprinting to help up-regulate your genes and drive changes in your metabolic function and taking a more moderate-intensity continuous training approach with weight and cardio training efforts. If sprinting is something you physically cannot do, then try short high-intensity bursts on a stationary bike.
Finding a balance between a few short, intense bursts of cardio three times a week and doing the longer more consistent MICT regimens three to four times a week with some downtime to recover will give you lasting health and fitness results.
A recognized health and wellness presenter, fitness trainer and now primal health coach in the Inland Northwest. Now in his eighth year of bringing health and wellness through his writing, teaching and coaching, Judd delivers his well-rounded message of mindfulness, nutrition and fitness to readers and clients alike.