Even if you’re new to the world of health and fitness, you’re likely already familiar with high intensity interval training (HIIT) and cardiovascular exercise, commonly called cardio.
They are both viewed as staples in the world of exercise and are often two of the first terms that people come across when they begin to research. It’s essential to understand the key differences between the two so that you can get the most out of each technique and begin to optimize your approach to working out. If you feel like you might benefit from assistance, Aaptiv has all the cardio and hiit workouts you could ever want.
HIIT and cardio are sometimes mistakenly thought to be the same thing, or one term may be confused for the other. In this article, we will fill you in on the key differences between the two techniques so that you can plan your workout for the results you want.
Put simply, cardio is any type of exercise that leads to a sustained rise in heart rate during the period of time that the exercise is taking place. For this reason, cardio is considered to be aerobic in nature because muscles require oxygen to perform it. High intensity interval training, on the other hand, is an anaerobic exercise style. When it comes to HIIT vs cardio, that is the first major difference.
During a traditional cardio work out, most people aim to keep their heart rate at 60-80% of its maximum level. When people think of cardio, they typically equate it to running, but that is just one of the many exercises that fall into this category. Swimming, using an elliptical, and even “leisurely” activities like kayaking are all examples of cardio. If you’re looking for ways to get creative with incorporating cardio, check out our free trial.
The American Heart Association recommends that individuals get at least 30 minutes of cardio at least five days out of the week. Cardio boasts a number of benefits such as weight loss, lowered heart rate over time, stronger lungs, and improved mood.
However, as great as cardio is for your health, it’s important to start slowly, especially if you are new to exercise. It is recommended that you consult with a medical professional to determine whether your body is healthy enough to handle the sudden onset of increased activity.
If you’re interested in learning more about cardio, you’ll want to read this article to help you separate fact from fiction.
High Intensity Interval Training
One great way to visualize HIIT is with sprinting. High intensity interval training involves giving your all to the exercise at hand for a short amount of time, as with sprinting, followed by intervals of rest between bursts of activity. This style of exercise has been a staple for athletes for many years, and many personal trainers use it with their clients.
However, you don’t have to be out on the track or field to engage in HIIT. The principals of high intensity interval training can be applied to just about any exercise. You can even do it on an elliptical. If you want to learn more about how to go that route, check out our guide.
The rise in popularity of HIIT started back in the late 1990s when research began to suggest that high intensity interval training had the potential to produce the same benefits as cardio while requiring a lot less time to complete a workout. This was great news for people who wanted to improve their physical health but were struggling with time constraints.
Some studies out there also suggest that HIIT may have benefits over traditional cardio in terms of sustained fat loss. Researchers are still not completely certain about why this is, but many contribute it to what is called the “after-burn effect,” when the body’s metabolism runs faster than normal for hours after exercising.
However, despite its benefits, high intensity interval training should not be your only type of exercise if overall health is your goal. Cardio and HIIT must be combined to maximize the benefits of both.
Is One Technique Better Than the Other?
Jonathan Mike, PhD, from Albuquerque, NM, says it best: “The truth is that both high-intensity interval training and steady-state cardio are effective in their own ways.”
Aerobic and anaerobic exercises both affect the body and heart differently Too much of one style of exercise and not enough of the other can push the body out of balance. For example, if you engage exclusively in HIIT without any traditional cardio, you become at risk for easily triggering the fight or flight response. This can increase feelings of stress and anxiety, which is the opposite of what most people hope to get out of their fitness regimen.
For this reason, if you’re exercising as a way to improve mental health and mood, you may get the most benefit from cardio with high intensity interval training mixed in from time to time. As Mike Robertson, a gym owner in Indianapolis, says “So many people these days are stressed out, on the go, can’t relax, can’t shut down, and then they go to the gym and stress their bodies more with high-intensity workouts.”
Finding a Balance
Your best bet for striking the right balance between cardio and HIIT is to consult with a personal trainer or other fitness professional. If you go this route, you can develop a customized routine that will work well for you and your unique needs. You don’t have to go to the gym to do this. There are many trainers out there who will happily work out a plan for you to complete outdoors or in the comfort of your own home.
In fact, with the help of our app, you can work with a trainer no matter where you are. Our trainers are all certified by respected organizations such as the ISSA, NASM, and ACE. They can offer their assistance with just about any type of exercise that you might think of. No matter whether you’re looking for a new yoga routine or trying to get more out of your elliptical workout, we’ve got you covered.