HIIT vs. Steady State Exercise: Which is Better?

HIIT vs. Steady State Exercise: Which is Better?

HIIT vs. Steady State Exercise

Many health organizations recommend at least 30 minutes of physical activity every day for overall health.  Exercise is one of the most common forms of physical activity and generally exercise is performed to increase one aspect of fitness.  Daily exercise consisting of at least 30 minutes every day can help improve blood pressure, blood glucose and insulin levels, lower LDL cholesterol and raise HDL cholesterol, increase gastric motility, and decrease the overall chance of premature death, cardiovascular disease, and cancer.  While exercising for a solid 30 minutes every day is a great start, one ought to consider the differences between traditional exercise and research bound high-intensity interval training.  Listed below is a description of the two forms of exercise and reasons why both are good for health.

Steady State Exercise

This form of cardio is often referred to as “traditional” or “continuous” exercise.  Steady state exercise is the type of continuous exercise which is often found in one long, continuous bout.  Long-distance runners and cyclists are often the result of steady state exercise and the benefits of this form of activity are numerous.  For a clear description of steady state exercise, it is defined as the period of aerobic exercise during which heart rate does not change more than five beats per minute over the span of at least one minute and when the rate of breathing steadies.  This is the time during which runners and cyclists competing in events are in the “groove” and often when endorphin release is highest.  In addition, steady state exercise is optimal for fat burning when the intensity is between 65 and 80 percent of one’s maximal effort.  It is this level of intensity which has been the talk of research for so many years, especially for fat burning.  Recent studies have examined this concept for energy usage among healthy adults, suggesting that fat is the major fuel source during exercise when the body is in steady state exercise [1].  For fitness and health enthusiasts looking to reduce overall body fat, this is a recommended and traditional style of exercise in which virtually anyone can perform.

High-Intensity Interval Training

In light of the abundance of research on exercise training and health, there has been a new shift in exercise modality over the past decade.  High-intensity interval training (HIIT) is a form of exercise in which an individual engages in exercise of at least 85 percent of his or her maximal effort for a given duration followed by some form of rest period.  Generally speaking, HIIT programs can involve aerobic, strength, functional, and circuit training.  One of the most common forms of HIIT exercise includes interval cardio and this form of cardio is often described as more enjoyable than traditional exercise [2] and can help increase ones aerobic performance quickly.  In addition to the enjoyment of interval training, HIIT is very effective for the improvement of health.  A recent study comparing HIIT programs and traditional cardio exercise found HIIT to be more effective than steady state exercise in preventing and controlling hypertension [3], which is one of the biggest health issues globally.  Following a bout of HIIT exercise, blood pressure reduces for an hour or two by a few points to help regulate blood pressure.  This is often a result of an improved change in cardiac output, training heart rate, and a reduced peripheral resistance in the vascular system of the body.  Click here for a sample HIIT program to burn more calories in your next workout.

While exercise may not be new to you, the modality may be something you have yet to switch up.  Many gyms and fitness centers offer HIIT programs and personal trainers are highly experienced in programming HIIT into a workout.  Similarly, depending on your health goals, traditional exercise may be the modality by which you chose to keep a highly sustained level of health.  Some individuals should heed caution prior to starting a HIIT program since working at such a high intensity can place a large demand on the heart and vasculature.  The information presented in this article is not intended to treat or cure any disease and it should not replace the guidance and direction of a physician.  Prior to starting any exercise program, be sure to discuss exercise with your doctor.



[1] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/3699010

[2] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21360405

[3] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3371620/

[4] http://www.webmd.com/fitness-exercise/features/high-intensity-workouts-to-burn-calories

About the Author

, Celebrity Personal Trainer and Fitness & Nutrition Expert headquartered in Scottsdale, AZ. He specializes in helping men and women achieve weight loss, muscle building, toning and other customized fitness & nutrition programs to create a Healthy Lifestyle. James offers private luxury personal training, 12-week custom workout plans, and personalized nutrition meal plans. Follow on Google+.

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