High Intensity Interval Training Workouts vs Low Intensity Cardio Workouts: Which One is Better?


By now if you don’t know that engaging in regular “cardio” exercise is an important factor when it comes to both losing weight and maintaining good health it’s likely that you’ve been living in a cave for the last 40 years or so. The question isn’t whether or not we “need to do our cardio”, but what type of cardio exercise and how often.

Slow Burn or Rapid Fire?

The answer to this question is that it is a bit different for each person. But, before we get into any similarities and difference between the two, let’s do a little review of what “cardio exercise” is. Cardio is actually slang for “cardiovascular” and is also known as aerobic exercise. When exercising aerobically during activities such as walking, jogging, swimming, and bicycling, you use the body’s large muscles. This places a demand on the body to use oxygen more efficiently to the benefit of the heart, lungs, and circulatory system.

A Simple Way to Know if You’re in the Zone

A simple way to determine if you are exercising aerobically is if you’re exercising at a level of effort where you can still talk, but not necessarily have a long conversation. Add the fact that you’re working up a bit of a sweat, and you’re there. You can also determine whether you are working aerobically by using one of the many online calculators to determine the target heart rate for your age.

When you’re exercising aerobically as described above, you are engaging in what is known as low intensity aerobic exercise. Generally speakingת I personally recommend about 20 minutes of low intensity cardio exercise performed 3 or 4 days a week to maintain a good level of fitness. Those who want to lose weight will want to engage in low intensity for at least 4 days a week for at least 30-60 minutes per session. Those seeking to achieve weight loss may also want to consider adding a few sessions of high intensity cardio exercise as well.

Note from Regev: I personally believe you can lose weight with a a very brief, intense workout once every few days. You don’t need to spin your wheels a few days a week. The separation of aerobics and anaerobics are artificial, they are tightly bonded and work together.

High Intensity Interval Training Workouts: Anaerobic Aerobics

What is interval training? High intensity cardio exercise is often referred to as “anaerobic” because the level of effort requires the body to a point of exhaustion due to not being able to produce enough oxygen to keep up with the demand. How can you tell if you’re exercising at a high intensity? Unlike low intensity, you can’t talk. Usually high intensity cardio means short, rapid bursts of energy (such as sprinting and jumping rope) that are followed by short periods of “rest” by lowering the level of intensity (for example from a short, rapid sprint to light a jog and then back to sprinting.)

Anaerobic exercise is used to increase strength because it causes muscle growth. Many people prefer high intensity workouts because you can achieve greater benefits in less time. For example, high intensity cardio burns more calories than low intensity. Also, the more muscle you have, the more calories you burn not only during exercise, but throughout the day.

Mixing It Up: High Intensity and Low Intensity

The question remains – which is best? The best exercise is always the exercise you do. If that means you are more likely to take a 45 minute walk four times a week than perform a shorter, high intensity workout 3 times a week, by all means stick with your walk. Low intensity is a good workout to increase the efficiency of the cardiovascular system, lungs, and easier on the joints than high intensity.

At the same time, high intensity interval training (HIIT) requires your heart to work harder, making the heart muscle stronger and can also build large muscles, which gives a boost to the metabolism. If you’re able, why not mix it up and enjoy both low and high intensity cardio – sometimes keeping it interesting is just the ticket for sticking with it.

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