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With the recent surge in interest in High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) workout regimes, more and more people are trying to decide whether to stick with traditional continuous endurance workouts or to embark on the new and seemingly attractive HIIT way of short and intense sessions. Are you one of them? Should you stick to either type of workout or perhaps even do a combination of both? Join us on this journey to dig into the differences and find out!
High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)
An HIIT workout combines intense, high-energy exercises with short rest intervals. HIIT uses a combination of aerobic and anaerobic metabolism to generate energy for intense workouts. Glycogen and lactic acid are used for energy. HIIT has been popularised in recent years as a highly effective way of spending less time while getting the same amount of calorie burn as traditional endurance training.
Examples of HIIT
In creating an effective HIIT program, factors such as the duration, intensity and frequency of the work interval and the duration of the rest interval need to be considered. Basic forms of HIIT exercises include:
- Turbulence Training – weight training alternated with high-intensity cardio.
- Tabata Method – each workout set is 30 seconds long, consisting of 20 seconds work coupled with 10 seconds of stationary rest.
- Power Intervals (for cardio activities) – each workout set is 120 seconds, consisting of 90 seconds of intensity work coupled with 30 seconds of low-intensity work e.g. brisk walking.
Click here for more detailed examples of each type of HIIT.
Pros and Cons
The main advantages of HIIT include burning more calories in a shorter period and the building of lean muscle - which increases resting metabolism. It also increases mitochondria size and number - which increase energy generation and effectiveness of future workouts.
However, the drawback to HIIT consists of a higher risk of injury and muscle soreness - which may affect you in daily life. HIIT also requires a tremendous amount of discipline to perform consistently at or above your limits.
A continuous endurance workout is aerobic, consisting of a constant process of generating energy for exercise by converting stored fat to energy using oxygen. Continuous endurance is traditional, tested and proven, as evidenced by the number of marathons, biathlons and triathlons all over the world.
Examples of Continuous Endurance Exercises
Continuous endurance exercises are created with consistent intensity in mind, usually for at least 20 minutes and extending up to hours. Examples include:
- Water Running
- Sports e.g. soccer, basketball, badminton, etc.
Pros and Cons
Pros of continuous endurance exercises are numerous, including increased energy, improved mood, better health and so on. Specifically, when compared to HIIT, cardio workouts are less intensive, less prone to cause injury and provides an easier workout for beginners and recovering athletes. Besides, if you are training specifically for a marathon, the best way is still by performing continuous endurance training.
On the other hand, continuous endurance exercises can take a significant chunk of your time to burn the same calories compared to HIIT. These relatively less intensive exercises are also less effective at providing a post-workout energy burn.
Our verdict? Do both!
Having come a long way since the beginning of this article, it is clear that both forms of exercise have their individual pros and cons. So which performs better in say, a half marathon? A 2012 study which experimented and compared the half marathon performance between HIIT and continuous endurance athletes found no significant differences in performance. Our verdict? Do both! For the recreationally active runner, the same study recommends 4 sets of HIIT sessions combined with 1 continuous endurance session per week.
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