High Intensity Interval Training. Hearing the word HIIT is set to either get you pumped to join in or running for cover. But by now, the majority of us have come across the fat-blasting form of fitness in one way or another. Is it really the magic form of training we all need to be doing? And if you’re on the latter end of the spectrum running for cover, is there another solution?
Is HIIT all it’s cracked up to be?
First of all, let’s consider the benefits of HIIT and how to effectively implement it into your workout schedule. Alike to how it sounds, HIIT translates as short bursts of explosive exercise periods, paired with short intervals of rest and varying in intensity depending on the ratio of work to rest. E.g. 20seconds on/ 10 seconds of rest. An effective form of HIIT would typically include cardio and strength-based exercises to offer a full rounded session, but it actually refers to any type of exercise of your choice, that you do with maximum bursts of effort combined with short periods of rest. Don’t get me wrong, HIIT is a great way to work out and I myself am a self-proclaimed HIIT-enthusiast. It is an incredibly efficient way to torch calories in a short time span and has been acclaimed to be the most effective way to burn body fat. However, studies have widely shown that there is largely no difference between the body fat % burnt when comparing HIIT with steady-state cardio training. So, what’s the verdict? Well, in terms of burning between 300-500 cal’s in less time than it takes to finish an episode of Friends, it’s a winner. So, if that’s your goal, is it the solution? Should you be doing it every day if that’s the case?
The hard HIITing realities
Aside from the fact you would probably be as stiff as a plank of wood if this was your regime 7 days a week and putting yourself at a much higher risk of injury without sufficient rest, doing HIIT every day would actually be a hindrance to seeing those results we’re all looking for. Your body needs recovery time in order to repair those muscles you’ve blasted in your sessions and without this period of rest, your body won’t be able to action all the positive adaptations and gains from your workouts. So, it will actually hinder the results you see. The moral of the story is, we need REST and according to previous study*, it takes the body around 48hours to properly recover from high-intensity training. To avoid a constant state of fatigue, alongside other excessive stress on the body and our mental state where excessive training can actually affect our central nervous system, it is key to let your body recover properly. Alike to our choccy fix, HIIT is great, but in moderation. But, what if the idea of squat jumps and plyo lunges fills you with a fear worse than death?! Is it the only option?
The alternatives and introducing LISS, HIIT’s nicer little sister…
The answer is definitely not. The options out there are endless, from LISS training to team sports to general day to day tasks, there are plenty of other ways to effectively get your cardio fix in, without flinging yourself across the living room. If you haven’t yet heard of LISS or Low-Intensity Steady State training (otherwise known as HIIT’s less intense little sis), let’s go into a bit more detail. LISS is essentially any form of low-intensity cardio that you maintain at the same steady-state pace for a set time period, e.g. walking or cycling at 40-60% max heart rate for 40 minutes. It’s been highly accredited by the likes of Kayla Itsines for its many health benefits and its wide accessibility for any level of fitness. But what are these benefits you might ask, and does it really trump its sweaty big sis?
1. All fitness levels are welcome
Unlike HIIT, where jumping around and flinging yourself from wall to wall may not be the most suitable option for you, depending on both your fitness levels and physical limitations, LISS training is safer, simpler and a lot easier on your joints. LISS is a much more openly accessible form of training and is ideal for those who enjoy a more relaxed form of steady-state exercise.
2. LISS is the most effective way to burn fat (yep, you read that right!)
Where you might not quite believe that you’re burning fat more efficiently than when you’re sweating so much your eyeballs are stinging, it is in fact true that LISS cardio training actually burns more fat per calorie than when performing high-intensity exercise. Shocked?! Getting down to the science, Kayla Itsines explains that in order to metabolise fat, your body needs oxygen so the more oxygen you get in, the more fat burning occurs. Of course HIIT still burns fat and is effective for muscle building, higher intensity exercise burns more carbs as opposed to fat. LISS training pretty much only burns fat, which is really effective in the long run.
3. It’s great for recovery and enjoying a bit of nature too!
For those days where your muscles are giving you a big fat no to another hard-hitting sweat session, LISS is a great solution to still get your body moving. Recovery days are so important for your long-term fitness goals and are key to seeing results from all of your training, but that’s not to say you’ve got to stay vertical on the sofa. Getting your body moving is actually a great way to reduce onset muscle soreness by stimulating the blood flow to the damaged, fatigued muscles. Ultimately meaning you’re less likely to be hobbling up and down the stairs for 2-3 working days after your HIIT sesh if you incorporate LISS training in on your recovery days. It’s also a great way to get outside and see a bit of the au natural too!
So should I just be doing LISS training instead? And what are some example workouts?
The answer is that it’s completely up to you, but a combination of both HIIT and LISS training is highly recommended by many fitness professionals. If you don’t like the idea of HIIT, LISS is a great alternative and are really easy to stick to, especially considering it’s much safer to be doing it every day given the nature of it being low impact. BUT, remember LISS needs to be steady state and continuous for around 30-60 minutes, some examples of a LISS workout include:
- A brisk walk at a moderate pace
- Cycling at a steady pace (static bike or outdoors)
- Using the elliptical machine (or other gym equipment) at a steady pace
- Vinyasa Yoga or a fast flow that gets your heart rate up to around 40-60% of its max
However, despite all the positives of this type of training, it does come with its downfall of being a little bit slower in terms of producing the results you might be eager for. But give it time. The results will come, they are just going at a bit of a steadier pace (excuse the pun).
Now you’ve had the lowdown on steady state training, it might be worth considering the next time you’re looking to incorporate more workouts, that don’t always involve pushing yourself to the max. And make sure it suits you too! There are always different options and modifications to ensure you find your perfect fit.