Benefits of High Intensity Interval Training over Steady State Cardiovascular Training

by Bryan Armand

High intensity interval training, also known as HIIT, is a style of training that alternates between a series of high-intensity exercises and rest or relief periods. The work periods are typically highly aerobic, while the recovery periods involve lower intensity activity or periods of no activity.There can be a clear distinction made between this style of training for the benefits of cardio vascular conditioning and what is called traditional “steady state” cardio training, which focuses on longer periods of exercise with a relatively consistent level of intensity. Examples of steady state cardio training may include running at a moderate pace or the use of a stationary bike or elliptical in a similar fashion, while an example of HIIT would be running sprints at full intensity for 15 or 20 seconds with rest periods of 30 to 40 seconds. Experts in exercise physiology used to believe that steady state training was more effective for burning fat because more fat is used by the body as a fuel source at lower levels of exercise intensity than at higher levels. However, studies have shown high-intensity interval training to be over twice as effective for fat loss in half the time. Research tells us that 15 minutes of high intensity interval training burns more calories than jogging on a treadmill for an hour. Additionally, there are numerous other health and wellness benefits that have been correlated to interval based training.

High intensity training adapts to the cellular structure of muscles which helps to increase endurance while doing any type of exercise. A study posted in “Journal of Physiology,” in which a test group participated in HIIT for eight weeks, showed that they had doubled the length of time they could ride a bicycle while maintaining the same pace. The American College of Sports and Medicine stated that High Intensity Interval Training allows individuals to consume more oxygen than in non-interval based routines. The excess amount of oxygen consumed helps increase your rate of metabolism from about 90 minutes to 144 minutes after a session of interval training, helping to burn more calories at a faster rate, post exercise. Steady state cardio is also associated with the loss of muscle. HIIT workouts, however, allow participants to preserve their muscle gains while still shedding stored body fat.

A correlation has also been established, through numerous studies, between the benefits of HIIT over steady state training and the cultivation of a healthy hormonal environment. High intensity training has been shown to raise HGH or growth hormone levels, while long periods of steady state cardiovascular training have been linked to elevated levels of stress hormones, such as cortisol. Higher levels of HGH production are associated with improved athletic performance, better muscle gains and anti-aging effects, whereas elevated cortisol levels have been correlated to premature aging and excessive fat storage.

While research is still being conducted, numerous studies have supported the shift from longer, more traditional cardio routines to a more interval based approach with shorter, more intense exercises.

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