HIIT vs. Continuous Endurance Training—Which Is Better?


HIIT vs. Continuous Endurance Training—Which Is Better?

Apr 15, 2015 //

A common question among athletes is, “Which is better? HIIT or continuous endurance training?” While both of these methods of training have their place in an athlete’s overall fitness regimen, they provide different benefits. Here’s what both of these training styles can offer you.

HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training)

HIIT, or high intensity interval training, is a way of exercising where you alternate intervals of extreme effort with intervals of either reduced intensity or rest. The exact method of arranging the intervals can vary greatly. One common method of interval training is the Tabata system. In Tabata, 20 seconds of sprint-level effort are followed by 10 seconds of rest, and the whole thing is repeated 8 times for a total of  minutes.

HIIT has been shown to have a number of benefits. First, it improves cardiovascular efficiency, making for better heart and lung function. It increases your metabolic function, and it increases your aerobic capacity. Also, it can also increase your strength, making it double as strength training and cardio. High intensity interval training may also help to decrease your chance of certain metabolic disorders, help to reduce subcutaneous fat, and lower cholesterol levels.

High intensity interval training also can  be performed in much less time than continuous endurance training. For example, it’s possible to really wipe yourself out in just four minutes if you really go all out on a Tabata set on an exercise bike. With HIIT, it can be much easier to squeeze an exercise session into an already busy day.

However, HIIT can be very taxing on the body, so it’s very important to get enough rest. Also, people who are not already at a certain base level of fitness may not be able to jump right into high intensity interval training. If these people try to work out too intensely too quickly, they may be at an increased risk of injury.

It’s also worth noting that HIIT training can sometimes feel really, really hard. For people who struggle to motivate themselves to exercise, this is something worth thinking about. Sometimes the concept of going for a light jog is more enticing than the thought of doing sprints on a hill, even if you know that you’re going to be jogging much longer than you’d be sprinting.

Continuous Endurance Training

Continuous endurance training is probably what comes first to mind when you think about doing cardio. It’s getting on a treadmill, bike, hopping in the pool or hitting the pavement and then working steadily for a period of time.

Continuous endurance training has been associated with a number of different benefits. It obviously can be a great way of burning calories and getting fit, but it also has been shown to improve brain function, lift mood and improve heart health.

As mentioned earlier, a steady cardio workout is probably going to take longer than a high intensity interval training session. However, working at a slower pace for a longer time can sometimes be a great thing for you mentally. If you’re running ragged all day and feeling stressed, sometimes what you need isn’t a set of super taxing wind sprints that you find yourself dreading. Steady state cardio can feel relaxing, even meditative, while it improves your health. If you’ve ever been out jogging by yourself in a peaceful area when the weather’s right and the sun’s just starting to set, you probably know that there’s a unique sort of serenity you can experience during continuous endurance training. While HIIT offers many benefits, meditation is not typically one of them.

Similarly, just as one of the major benefits of HIIT is that it’s super intense, one of the benefits of continuous endurance training is that it doesn’t have to be. You can get great benefits just by going out and walking or jogging, and that’s a sort of activity you can do either every day or every other day, depending on your intensity level. If you’re doing HIIT correction, you won’t want to (and shouldn’t) do it every day. Plus, continuous endurance exercise is something that most people can do regardless of their fitness level, because it’s more easily scalable than HIIT. You do, of course, have to be careful whenever you begin a new exercise program, and it’s a good idea to consult a doctor before you start. However, steady state requires a lower fitness threshold than HIIT.

In conclusion, both HIIT and continuous endurance training have benefits. Depending on your specific goals and your particular level of health, one may be a better fit for your life right now than the other. Or, in some cases, it may be worth making both a part of your training regimen, so you can reap the rewards of both.



Christian Heftel

Christian Heftel is a freelance writer and fitness enthusiast. He is a certified yoga instructor, a teacher of Yau Man Kung Fu and a general lover of outdoor activity. When he's not writing, he enjoys spending time with his wife and son.

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