I love HIIT. It saves me time. It provides me the required vigour and stimulation that I need to kick off my day. Those 20-30 minutes of hard HIIT is what I look forward to. I love challenges and its a nice break from my otherwise sedentary lifestyle (which I am trying to alter via a standing desk and my Fitbit 10,000 steps challenge).
But don’t worry, I wont shove HIIT down your throat if you don’t want it. I am personally interested in optimising my gene expression and want to move towards wellness in the shortest time that I have available and I know one can be optimally healthy, fit and functional in only 3 to 6 hours a week.
Having said that, I try to remain unbiased towards all concepts that are there in the vast field of health, fitness and nutrition. There are many ways to skin the cat, but the bottomline always remains— any exercise is better than no exercise.
With that thought in mind, lets delve deep into the world of aerobic conditioning.
Consistent endurance exercise—such as 30 to 60 minutes of continuous running or cycling 3—7 days a week—causes a long list of cardiovascular adaptations and responses—increased cardiac muscle mass, increased stroke volume, increased carbohydrate sparing (thus greater use of fat as fuel), increased metabolic waste, increased oxidative enzyme, faster diffusion rate of oxygen and fuel into muscle, increased mitochondria (energy factory of cell) function, improved cell regulatory mechanisms of metabolism and increased fat oxidation.
Now thats a long list of cardiovascular, skeletal-muscle and metabolic adaptations. But recent studies have shown that performing HIIT has similar and in some cases superior adaptations when compared with steady state cardio.
Consider these studies:
Trapp et all conducted a HIIT program with young women for 15 weeks with three 20 min sessions per week. HIIT consisted of an 8s sprint followed by 12s of low intensity cycling, repeated for 20 min. Another group of women carried out an aerobic cycling protocol for 40 min each session. Results showed that women in the HIIT group lost 2.5 kg of subcutaneous fat, whereas no change occurred in the steady state aerobic group. Fat loss accruing through 15 weeks of HIIT was attained with 50% less exercise time commitment and a similar energy expenditure to that of steady-state exercise.
A 12-week controlled study in Denmark of high-intensity interval walking for patients with Type 2 diabetes showed it helped control blood glucose levels better than continuous moderate exercise, even though the same number of calories was expended by both groups. Interval training also was more effective at enhancing the patients’ physical fitness and reducing body fat relative to lean muscle tissue.
Does that mean you should switch over to HIIT?
HIIT protocols are extremely challenging and one has to be highly motivated to tolerate the accompanying discomfort.
Furthermore, HIIT may not be appropriate for everyone. In a recent report in the American College of Sports Medicine’s Health & Fitness Journal, Dr. Little; his wife, Mary E. Jung, also at the University of British Columbia; and Marcus W. Kilpatrick of the University of South Florida wrote that HIIT “is only appropriate for low-risk individuals, moderate-risk individuals who have been cleared for vigorous intensities by a medical professional, and high-risk individuals who are under direct medical supervision during exercise training.”
Final Verdict: HIIT or Steady State Cardio?
Any movement is better than none. Yes, there are overwhelming number of recent studies that have proved that HIIT protocols need not be limited to athletes anymore. It can yield broad range of physiological gains, often in less time than steady state cardio. I am not against steady state cardio, but want to advice people who only completely rely on it that excessive long duration cardio can cause muscular imbalances and loss of muscle mass.
Further, HIIT or steady state cardio is only a part of the whole story. Other activities should be inculcated in your training regime to build a healthy and functional body. FBX is a multi-faceted training system that makes you fit and healthy in only 3 to 6 hours of exercise per week. Anything more, you are risking yourself being overtrained.
For me personally, performing high intensity training like heavy weight lifting, HIIT regime can take a toll on my mental strength too. Sometimes, taking it easy on a cardio machine while watching a movie is a much welcome break and can actually be rejuvenating! But only sometimes 🙂
What do you think about HIIT? Have any questions? Let me know in the comments below!