HIIT vs. Cardio

Wednesday, July 13 2022 11:20 AM
By Ellen Healy

Unless you’ve been living under a rock you’ve probably heard of High-Intensity Interval Training, or have at least seen how popular it’s become or how it has taken the fitness industry by storm. When it comes to working out for weight loss, generally, people think of steady state cardio at the top of the pound-shredding list, and those people would be right. Cardio is a great way to lose fat, but it's not the only way of course.

So, what's the best way to lose? Many would argue HIIT workouts over cardio when it comes to fat loss. Others would stand by their running highs and weight loss successes.

What’s best for you and your weight loss journey? Read today’s blog as we take a deep dive on HIIT workouts versus cardio, discussing definitions, the benefits to both, the opinions, and the science. Let’s help you gain some direction regarding your weight loss, your fitness, and your story.


What’s Best for Weight Loss? | HIIT vs. Cardio 

HIIT vs Cardio

What is HIIT?

High-Intensity Interval Training or HIIT is a quicker yet arguably more intense workout than an hour-long walk or runs on the treadmill. HIIT alternates between high-intensity intervals to moderate or low-intensity intervals or a complete stop and rest. HIIT has become trendy and immensely popular in recent years as it allows for fat loss and muscle building in a shorter amount of time, a win-win-win.

When it comes to HIIT, you should work at about 80-95% of your max heart rate. That's a lot! You may find yourself uncomfortable during HIIT, from anywhere between 30 seconds to eight or nine minutes. A recovery or rest period follows each work set, where you lower your heartrate prepping for the next highly intensive work set. A HIIT workout can last anywhere from 20-60 minutes, depending on your goals and abilities, alternating between work sets and rest times.

Some examples of HIIT? Check out some Genesis HIIT workouts below:

Five HIIT Workouts You Can Do Anywhere
HIIT Workout with Variations – Beginner, Intermediate, and Advanced


The Pros and Cons of HIIT:

Many would argue that HIIT is a more effective workout than cardio because you can increase aerobic and anaerobic endurance - the two ways in which the body produces energy: aerobic (with air) and anaerobic (without air) - while burning more fat at a higher intensity. Along with its proven effectiveness, science backs the many benefits to HIIT workouts, including a healthy heart, improved calorie afterburn, and more.

Read more details on the many pros to HIIT through the Genesis blogs below:

Benefits of HIIT
Caloric Afterburn

Although there are many pros to HIIT, there are some cons as well. To start, “intensity” is in the name. HIIT is very, very intense and not really made for beginners. Many find themselves truly uncomfortable while performing, along with putting themselves at greater risk for injury, overtraining, or burnout. Can these all be avoided? Sure thing! The quick rule of thumb is to work your way up to HIIT and to know your limits. If you are uncomfortable with the speed of the workout, take it slower or lower the number of reps. Never do something you are uncomfortable doing. You don’t want to get injured today and delay your progress tomorrow.


What is Cardio? What are the benefits?

Cardio exercise is an aerobic exercise, a workout that raises your breathing and heart rate improving your heart function, your lungs, your circulatory system, and its functions. How does cardio differ from HIIT? Cardio is more of a steady state exercise performed at moderate or low intensity. During steady state cardio, you exert your body with moderate or low exercise for at least 30 minutes. During this time, your heart rate is maxing at 55-70%. Some examples of cardio workouts are running, shooting hoops, swimming, cycling, or even shoveling snow. Just like HIIT (just like any workout, really), there are so many benefits. Cardio helps strengthen your cardiovascular system as you increase your capacity to take in oxygen and pump blood to your muscles and the rest of your body.


HIIT or Cardio, or Both?

Both are great for weight loss! Both burn calories! While the calories you burn during steady state cardio are from fat, you will not burn as many calories or burn as much in the short amount of time as you would duringsteady state cardio HIIT. Although you will burn more calories in less time through HIIT, cardio is easier on your joints and, quite frankly, your mentality. HIIT can be fun, but it’s less enjoyable to some with just how intense it is. In other opinionated words, you can “smell the roses” a bit more during cardio, a long run, than you would during HIIT or a “kill-me-now” kind of work set moment.

If you choose HIIT as your workout cup of tea, we recommend performing HIIT just two days per week to avoid burnout. If steady state cardio is more your thing, stick to 3-4 days per week to prevent injury and overtraining.  


The Bottom Line:

There are so many pros and cons to both HIIT and cardio, so the choice really is yours when it comes to weight loss or workout preference. Annoyed there's no clear answer? You shouldn't be! Now, you're able to find what you love and stick to it.

If you perform HIIT, you may burn more calories in less time, but you may start avoiding workouts altogether as HIIT can be grueling and quite demanding. If you prefer cardio, you'll still burn calories but not as many as you would during HIIT, possibly taking you more time to reach your fitness goals rather than it would if you were to be consistent with HIIT workouts.

Like everything in life, there's always good and bad, pros and cons. What exercise you choose does not define your fitness journey or weight loss success. If you like both HIIT and cardio, do both! If you prefer one or the other, do that! Whatever makes you healthy AND happy is key because let’s face it, if you enjoy your workouts you’re more likely to continue them, ultimately crushing your goals by whatever way you got there.

Stay strong, stay hydrated, and stay fit, Genesis family!


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