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High-intensity Interval Training

Toni-Ann DiSantis

When choosing a cardio routine, know thyself!

If there were an awards show for cardio workouts, two general categories would be in the running (pun intended!): good old “steady state” workouts, in which you maintain a uniform intensity level, and high-intensity interval training (H.I.I.T.), in which you alternate between periods of intense, uncomfortable exertion and periods of mild or moderate exertion. H.I.I.T. workouts are typically shorter, and may offer more blood-pressure benefits. In a recent study, a subset of H.I.I.T. known as “sprint” interval training, in which you include a few seconds of all-out exertion, edged out moderate-intensity steady-state exercise for fat loss, but the difference was minimal. There’s also a bit of a combination of the two: shorter, steady state cardio workouts at 80+ percent of your age-adjusted max. Doing that type of workout for 21 minutes has been shown to help with other exercises like walking, resistance training, and jumping and to extend life with less disability. If you’re trying to decide between these types of workouts, your best bet is to choose what appeals to you the most, or mix it up and work them all into your exercise schedule. If interval training appeals to you, give it a go—with an experienced trainer if you’re new to it, as H.I.I.T. does come with a greater risk of injury. If you have a steady-state jogging, walking, or swimming routine you enjoy, feel free to stick with that. And if you’re beginning an exercise routine from scratch (i.e., the couch), talk with your doctor first and start with something simple, like a brisk walk several days a week. Know your goals, know your health risks, and above all, know yourself. And whichever cardio routine you choose, be sure to add resistance training to the mix two to three times a week.