High-intensity interval training has been deemed one of the most effective workouts, lauded for its fat burning, strength training, and efficient nature. However, low-intensity interval training can be just as effective—if done correctly. Get to know both styles of training with our guide to HIIT and LIIT.
What is HIIT?
HIIT (high-intensity interval training) is any workout that switches off between intense bouts of activity and periods of less intense activity, or total rest. It can lend itself to almost any form of exercise, from indoor and outdoor running to strength training, and everything in between. The goal is to repeatedly raise and lower your heart rate by giving it all you’ve got in the high-energy periods and recovering in the less intense periods.
Typically, a HIIT workout lasts around ten to 30 minutes, making it the ultimate time cruncher. The shorter amount of time makes no dents in your fitness efforts, either. Despite how short a HIIT workout can be, it can burn quite a bit of calories. In fact, in some cases, these workouts can burn up to 30 percent more calories than other workouts. Moreover, your metabolism and post-workout metabolic rate take an impressive hike once your sweat session is done. This is all without the risk of losing muscle mass.
These power-packed sessions can also produce just as many health benefits as longer moderately intense workouts. Sometimes, the benefits are similar to twice as much moderate exercise. This includes reduced blood pressure and blood sugar, as well as improved oxygen intake, digestion, and overall endurance. Not only that, but your workout is completely customizable (you can apply HIIT to a variety of exercises) and far from boring. Constantly switching up your speed, resistance, or movement requires constant attention. This leaves you no time to space out or check your phone. And, less boredom means more consistency. Maximum effects in minimal time? Hear, hear!
What is LIIT?
LIIT (low-intensity interval training) is similar to HIIT in the way that it consists of intervals of higher and lower intensity. The difference is that the high-intensity periods aren’t nearly as intense. Intensity during a LIIT routine is never at or above a sprint, and recovery time is longer. Think going from a jog into a walk, rather than a sprint into a jog.
No worries, because you can still torch calories this way. Although HIIT is lauded as the best weight loss option, LIIT can be just as effective. What it all comes down to is the amount of time you put into your workout. To achieve similar results performing LIIT as you would from performing HIIT, it typically takes twice as much time. Yet, if you’re willing to put in the extra time you can burn just as many (if not more) calories, plus benefit from a slew of other positive effects. On top of the same health benefits you gain from HIIT, you can gain similar benefits to general low-intensity training, like increased mobility, improved strength, and improved cardiovascular endurance. Basically, LIIT is the perfect alternative to vigorous exercise. It allows you to gain the same benefits and burn calories without burning out.
What’s the better workout for me?
A well-rounded fitness routine will include both HIIT and LIIT. Both provide similar health benefits (like improved cognitive health in seniors and reduced blood pressure) and can burn the same amount of total calories. Some situations call for a specific style, though. The best option for you largely depends on your fitness level and available time.
As mentioned before, LIIT is ideal for those who don’t prefer higher-intensity workouts. Fitness beginners, those recovering from an injury, those coming back from a workout hiatus, or even those who want an easier workout on rest days, can all benefit from doing low-intensity interval training. Lower intensities are easier on your joints, make you less prone to injury, and won’t leave you winded.
On the other hand, HIIT workouts are perfect for those who have limited time, want to increase the difficulty of their workout, have good cardiovascular endurance, and are both experienced and seek a workout shake-up. If you’re aiming to push your body to its limits, high-intensity interval training is your best bet.
Ultimately, if you’re able, both options are worth trying. Just about any workout can be done through HIIT and LIIT, so the possibilities are endless.