I’m sure you’ve heard of both of these before but just in case you haven’t, High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT), is where you do cardio for intervals. For example, a 30 second sprint followed by a minute of walking and you repeat these intervals for a 10-20-minute session. LISS, is your traditional cardio, such as walking on a treadmill for 40-60 minutes at the same pace maintaining your heart rate.
Before we get in to the details, I’ll just let you know that there won’t be a definitive answer as to which type of cardio is better. The results vary by individuals and their preferences so if you’re here looking for a definite, solid answer, sorry. It’s one of those articles.
High Intensity Interval Training
Personally, I prefer this type of cardio because I just cannot stand slow boring cardio. I just do not have the attention span for it and I get bored very easily. HIIT on the other hand is quick and efficient, great if you have a busy schedule.
Some studies have shown that even though the workout lasts for only around 20 minutes, its fat burning effects last for 24 hours AFTER your workout (“after burn”), as compared to just the length of time of your workout when doing LISS.
HIIT is also a creative way to get in your cardio, therefore, it is a much easier and painless way to do your cardio and we all know that if you’re not motivated, you’re not going to do it or just half-ass it at best.
Another study has shown that HIIT seems to be better at burning fat and preserving muscle due to its short and intense nature. It also helps improve your strength training sessions as it encourages explosiveness.
HIIT has also shown to increase production of the human growth hormone (HGH) during the 24 hours after a HIIT workout.
You can make it more challenging within the same time period by increasing your high intensity period and lowering your low/rest period.
It is not for beginners. If you have not been active for a while, HIIT can be quite strenuous on the body and the heart. It is very important that you warm up and slowly build up to it. Start with very short intense periods and work your way up.
Can be hard on the joints. If you are not careful, HIIT can have a negative impact on your joints due to its intense nature. Ensure a proper warmup and cool down before and after your HIIT workout. Also, consume high quality healthy fats for good joint health.
It can’t be done every day. If you’re looking to burn as much fat as possible, you will need cardio (or eat even less). However, if you’re thinking of doing HIIT every single day, think again. It WILL burn you out and possibly even get you injured.
Low Intensity Steady State Cardio
This is the traditional, time tested method of burning fat. Bodybuilders, athletes, your mother, everyone, has done it and burnt fat with it. It just works.
It does not get in the way of recovery. If you strength train then you know that recovery is key to muscle growth. Doing LISS will ensure proper blood circulation and enhance your recovery as opposed to HIIT which will just add to the soreness.
It is safe to do. Just about anyone can get on the treadmill or go outside for a jog, unless of course you have a pre-existing medical condition, in which case consult with your doctor.
Improves cardiovascular health. It might be slow and boring but, it provides you with real life benefits. It greatly improves your heart health, your stamina and your endurance, allowing you to work out for longer periods of time with less time needed for recovery.
It is boring! Did I mention that? Now, if you can stick it out, you’re a stronger person than me and I salute you but for us normal people, 45-60 minutes, especially after a strength training session can get quite boring and monotonous. You’re more likely so stick with your workout if you enjoy it.
Only burns fat as long as you are doing it. We’ve learnt that HIIT provides an after burn effect that keeps you burning calories for 24 hours after, however, no such effect is seen from performing low intensity cardio. You only get what you put in.
Can cause catabolism. Doing too much of it can cause muscle breakdown. Keep it to a max hour long and only 5 days a week.
Can cause joint pain. Doing the same thing over an extended period of time will be hard on your joints. Try to switch up the type of cardio, such as jogging, cycling, etc.
High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) vs. Low Intesity Steady State Cardio (LISS)
Obviously what works for you might not necessarily work for me. It all depends on your fitness level, your schedule, your interests, etc. If you’ve never done cardio before, start with low intensity for 30 minutes a day and then build up to longer time periods or switch it up with HIIT. There’s no rule that say that you can’t do both. You can do light steady cardio in the morning and then finish off your strength training with 10-20 minutes of HIIT (or the opposite). The key is consistency. If you don’t enjoy the workout, there’s no way you’ll stick with it. If you like HIIT, do HIIT, if not then do steady state.