Friday, January 30, 2015

Interval Training or Jogging? Which is Better?

High Intensity Interval Training is getting a lot of attention recently. It seems everyone is trumpeting the value of fast, super-intense cardio. Do you need to give up your steady jogging workout and kick it up a notch?

The truth is that both high-intensity interval training and steady-state cardio are effective in their own ways. The best system of cardiovascular training is a blend of both higher- and lower-intensity training that is tailored to your body and your goals.

Steady state workouts are simple: perform your activity at a steady challenging-but-manageable pace for 20 minutes or more, aiming for a heart rate of 120-150 beats per minute. Steady state cardio causes unique adaptations in the heart. The mechanics of the way the heart pumps blood through the ventricles causes the heart to grow in capacity, pump more blood with each contraction and triggers your heart rate to drop substantially. A lower heart rate indicates a healthy, high functioning cardiovascular system. More importantly, it also indicates a high "parasympathetic tone" in the nervous system. That means an enhanced ability to relax, focus, and recover from stress.

HIIT workouts are a bit more complex. Perform your activity as hard as you can for a brief, set period (two minutes or less), then recover for a predetermined rest interval and repeat the cycle four or more times. Studies have shown that HIIT is nine times more effective for losing fat than steady-state cardio. Researchers are not sure why this is, but one reason may be the after-burn effect, in which the metabolism stays elevated for hours after an intense workout. Be cautious. With HIIT, you have a higher probability for over-reaching and injury. It is clearly effective in the short-run but can grind you down if you keep it up for months at a time.

Mike Robertson, MS, CSCS, notes that "The biggest thing we need to respect is that it's not one extreme or another. There's a time and place for both low- and high-intensity training. You just have to figure out how to put it together into one seamless, integrated package." Cross training can protect against injury, improve your performance and reflect balance in your life. Choose exercise to improve your health and reduce your stress and enjoy moving your body!

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