Exercise is great and whatever it is you are doing is better than nothing. However, not all forms of exercise are born equal. If you want to achieve a particular goal then don’t just train hard, train smart. With this in mind, which is better for your health and fitness goals…
High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) or Low Intensity Steady State (LISS) exercise?
What are they?
HIIT includes circuit training, Tabata, CrossFit workouts, basically anything that involves periods of maximal or high effort with short breaks, recovery, and or rest periods. LISS is continuous activity maintained for a sustained period such as jogging.
Why should you choose HIIT?
- If you play in a sports team i.e. football, rugby, tennis etc.
When in sport do you ever run at a slow/moderate steady pace continuously? I cannot think of one game where this happens. Replicating the intensities and changes of speed for your chosen sport will be far more beneficial for you and HIIT style workouts are more likely to achieve this.
- If you want to shed excess fat
Both HIIT and LISS will help you to shed excess fat but HIIT will burn more calories in a shorter space of time and increases metabolism more than steady state cardio, even after your workout has finished.
- You want to maintain muscle mass
HIIT has been shown to increase testosterone and growth hormone more than LISS. It is also much easier to include weights or bodyweight exercises such as push ups, jumping squats within a HIIT session to achieve this goal.
- You have limited time to exercise
You can perform an effective HIIT workout in under 20 minutes. In order to burn the same amount of calories through performing LISS you will need to workout for a longer period. You can also perform varieties of HIIT training in your office or at home. You can only do LISS at home/in your office if you have an expensive cardio machine i.e. a treadmill/bike/rower and let’s be honest sitting on a machine is boring!
AND… as well as burning more fat, increasing your metabolism, and maintaining muscle mass, HIIT ALSO increases your endurance.
So, Why choose LISS?
- It can be kinder to your body.
As the name tells you, it is low intensity! It is therefore easier to recover and you are more able to repeat it, more regularly.
- Great for active recovery
Active recovery using LISS increases blood flow delivering much needed nutrients around the body and removing waste products without putting too much stress on your body
- You’re training for a long distance event such as a marathon.
It is specific to what you are doing! Although I would add that there are numerous studies suggesting you should now include strength training as part of your triathlon, marathon training to improve performance. AND some studies have shown HIIT to have just as much of a positive impact on cardiovascular adaptations
If you like hitting the weights room too then this makes things a little trickier. Research has shown cardio before weight training can negatively impact your strength and may negatively impact muscle growth. High intensity workouts will also require some recovery so if combined with a weight training program it may impair performance. Suggestions to tackle this are to perform your LISS/HIIT on different days to weight training or at different times in the day to allow some recovery. Alternatively, you could utilise different body parts for your cardio/HIIT and your weight training. For example if you jog, or perform sprints as part of a LISS/HIIT session you could then weight train your upper body only on that day. Or if you performed some rowing (pulling action) as your cardio you could perform upper body pushing exercises such as bench press within your weight training routine that session.
Both LISS and HIIT will improve your mental health, the health of your heart, and help you to burn excess fat. HIIT appears to be the most time efficient method but pick what you enjoy most and stick with it. What is most important is you are doing something. Remember the following too:
- Healthy eating has a massive role to play (have a read of Remember, Abs are made in the Kitchen)
- Genetics – everyone is different, don’t compare your progress to anyone else
- Shortcuts don’t exist – progress takes time and you may have to wait
Just in case you fancied giving some HIIT a go at home in your living room, here is an example workout. It takes 17 minutes to complete, no equipment is needed, so no excuses 😉
40 seconds work, 20 seconds rest
- Jumping jacks
- Squat jumps
- Press ups
- Mountain climbers
Rest 1 minute and repeat this 3 times
*if you are not sure what any of the exercises are then youtube/google them or ask – and you can simplify where necessary i.e. press ups; go to knees or perform with hands on a raised surface*