Cardio, like a ginger child, is hard to love. You know it’s important and it has to be done, but often it gets dropped in favour of another set of free weights or an abs class. You know it’s good for your health and it will aid weight loss, but let’s be honest, it can be boring, so if you do manage to get yourself on a bike or a treadmill then you want to be sure you are getting the most out of your effort. So which type is right for you?
High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)
So what is HIIT? Essentially HIIT is pushing yourself to your limit and even slightly beyond for short bursts followed by a period of rest. Imagine sprinting for 30 seconds and then walking for a couple of minutes before sprinting again. It’s obvious why sprinters would engage in this type of training, but why should you?
Firstly, it’s over quickly, if you have a low boredom threshold or you are short on time, this could really help, 10-15 minutes and you are done.
HIIT will elevate your heart rate to a level (over 85%) that will encourage significant improvement to your cardiovascular fitness. This means you will find performing cardio will get easier and you will no longer be out of breath climbing the stairs.
The downside however is that HIIT in all of its forms takes a tremendous toll on your body, so it needs to be done sparingly. No more than a couple of times per week, otherwise injury and overtraining will set their own limits for you.
Moderate Intensity Training (MIT)
As the name suggests, it’s a moderate form of training that will not leave you panting like a hot puppy, but the trade off for this is that you will have to exercise for longer (anything up to an hour). Imagine jogging or riding a bike on relatively flat terrain, it’s an effort but not an unbearable one. Your heart rate should stay in the mid 60% range if you goal is to burn fat, this is the type of training that is ideal in the run up to a Marathon a Tough Mudder or even just a local Fun Run! You can perform this type of exercise on a regular basis and results are best if used in conjunction with HIIT.
Podcasts, audio books or great playlists are a must on your moderate days. The downside this type of training is the time required to do it, not ideal if you are on the go.
Low Intensity Steady State (LISS)
The polar opposite of HIIT, imagine a brisk walk. LISS can be very effective in improving overall health, reduce blood pressure and cholesterol, help with depression and bring with it a sense of general wellbeing. Although it is less effective than the other forms of cardio we have discussed when it comes to fat burning and cardiovascular fitness, it is ideal if you want to minimise the impact on your joints. LISS works really well for the ageing population, injury recovery, the morbidly obese and anyone engaging in physical activity for the first time.
This type of exercise can be performed almost indefinitely and often lasts for an hour or more, so put aside plenty of time for this one.
In summary, if you want to improve your cardiovascular fitness, burn fat and are short on time, then HIIT is for you, just don’t overdo it. If you are training for a marathon, have plenty of time and don’t really want to test your limits just to burn some fat, then MIT is for you. Finally, if you have joint issues, are struggling to get into exercise, have high blood pressure or are recovering from injury then LISS is for you.
So which is the best? Well, they all are, all cardio is good for you and needs to be done, so stop reading this blog and as Nike says ‘JUST DO IT’.