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What is the difference between cardio and High-Intensity Interval Training?(HIIT) is there any advantage of one over the other?In the past, slow cardio was hailed as the be all and end all of weight loss. Pounding the track or treadmill for hours like a hamster on crack was deemed to be highly effective for losing weight. However, research and many conclusive studies over the years have shown that this is a fallacy.
High-Intensity Interval Training(HIIT) is much more effective and powerful than slow, steady state cardio. To add insult to injury, slow cardio has been shown to cause weight gain indirectly. Instead of being a solution, it was a part of the problem. There is no doubt that high-intensity cardio is far better than slow cardio.
However, do not be so hasty to jump on the HIIT bandwagon just yet. First, you’ll need to assess what your level of fitness is. High-intensity sessions are best suited for people who can handle such training. If you have not exercised in years, one HIIT session will wipe you out and leave you sore for the day. You have to be aware of that too. Both steady state cardio and high-intensity cardio have an important role to play in any weight loss program.
Do not discard slow cardio. It has its time and place. Ideally, you should incorporate both steady state cardio and high-intensity cardio into your training regimen when trying to lose weight. Variety is the spice of life, and it applies to your workouts too. Do remember to consult your doctor or a qualified medical professional before you start any exercise program. This is especially important if you have underlying medical conditions that may be of concern.
Slow, steady state Cardio
Firstly, everyone can do this form of exercise as it does not involve any heavy work. Moderate activities such as casual walking, swimming and jogging are regarded as steady state cardio. After a steady state cardiovascular activity, you will not be breathing heavily, panting or even gasping for air. This type of exercise is not so stressful but will still burn calories, albeit at a slower rate. There is minimal sustained fat burning after the session is over.
When and where is it appropriate?
Steady state cardio exercises are a good starting point if your fitness levels are low, or you have been living a sedentary lifestyle for a long time. For such cases, it is best to start off slow and get your body used to moving and activity. Your workouts should be comprised of activities such as walking or slow jogging. Swimming or cycling is good too. As time progresses, and your body gets used to activity, you should increase the intensity of your training sessions. As long as you stay the course and your diet is sensible, you will lose weight and see some increase in strength and stamina. Then, it’ll be time to introduce high-intensity workouts into your training regimen.
High-Intensity Cardio or HIIT
This type of exercise is much more intense by nature and is not a good starting point unless your fitness levels are relatively high. It involves full body exercises, jumps, sprints, explosive movements, etc. All these are done at a very high pace with very little rest time in between the exercises. You will breathe heavily, pant, sweat, feel like your chest is exploding and also burn a lot more calories. You will be in the ‘hurt box’ for most of the workout. These are not easy workouts, but they will put you in fat burning mode for hours, long after your workout was completed.The hard training sessions will increase your brain’s endorphins (feel good chemicals), and you will feel refreshed and good for the rest of the day.
If you want to take your fitness level to the next stage and accelerate your fat loss, you must engage in high-intensity training. Just remember not to overtrain. 2 or 3 HIIT sessions a week should more than suffice. Overtraining will lead to metabolic stress and also puts a huge strain on your central nervous system. It makes you more predisposed to muscular soreness and injury. Depending on your fitness level, the ideal way to make use of these two forms of exercise is to alternate between them.
Have one or 2 days of high-intensity cardio interspersed with a few days of mild to moderate cardio. Try going for a slow jog for 30 to 40 minutes upon waking, on days in between your high-intensity sessions. You will be amazed at the positive results.
To conclude, you should strive for high-intensity training sessions but only start when you feel that your body is ready for them. It is okay to spend time raising your fitness level and building your strength by using steady state cardio initially. You can always adopt HIIT when you are truly ready. There is no rush. One step at a time will still get you to where you want to go.