High-intensity interval training, or HIIT is often proclaimed to be a wonder workout. From eight-minute Tabata workouts to popular videos like Joe Wicks getting us fit over lockdown, it feels like the whole world loves to spend 15 minutes doing push ups, burpees, lunges and mountain climbers in quick succession.
However, although it may be time efficient, many people just don't like it. And you're less likely to do an exercise you don't like.
Researchers from the Department of Exercise and Sport Science, University of Wisconsin-La Crosse (opens in new tab), looked at different results and participant's responses to both HIIT and low-intensity, steady-state cardio, or LISS. Of course, HIIT was found to be much more time-efficient, raising heart rates much quicker and completing workouts in a shorter time.
However, over the course of eight weeks of training, both groups saw a similar increase in their VO2 max. This is a measurement of the maximum amount of oxygen the body can take on during physical exercise, and serves as a great indicator of cardiovascular fitness.
Essentially, this implies both groups got just as fit as each other over the course of the eight-week training sessions. Although the HIIT group got their workouts done faster, they got no fitter than the steady-state group.
In addition, the group who did HIIT workouts for eight weeks enjoyed the programme far less than those who did steady-state cardio instead. This is an obvious tick in the "pros" column: if you enjoy exercising, you're far more likely to continue to work out and lose weight.
The researchers write: "the results suggest that although HIIT protocols are time efficient, they are not superior to conventional exercise training." If you've not got much time on your hands, or you enjoy doing HIIT more than other forms of exercise, it's going to work for you. But it's not going to work for everyone.
Steady-state cardio, like running or cycling, was said to be more enjoyable. If HIIT-style training's just not for you, consider trying a lower-intensity, gentler form of cardio fitness.
The key takeaway is to find a form of exercise you enjoy, which will help you look forward to doing it. Do you love running, weightlifting, rock-climbing, hiking, dance or soccer? Making an investment in something you love to do will keep you active, instead of trying to slog through a workout you hate twice a week.
Matt Evans is an experienced health and fitness journalist and News Editor at Fit&Well, covering all things exercise and nutrition on the Fit&Well website. Matt originally discovered exercise through martial arts: he holds a black belt in Karate and remains a keen runner, gym-goer, and infrequent yogi. His top fitness tip? Stretch.
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