Cardiovascular exercise vs. high-intensity interval training

CRegal Editor
  • In the past, most recommendations for exercise have called for a certain number of hours dedicated to physical activity.  For instance,  published guidelines from the Health and Human Services Department in 2008 suggested 150 minutes of moderate exercise per week — the equivalent of five 30-minute walks. The guidelines added that 75 minutes of vigorous exercise a week, such as jogging, could be substituted. 


    By most estimates, however, at least 80 percent of Americans don’t meet the recommendations.  With the time constraints in mind, many people have turned to shorter, more intense workouts called high-intensity interval training.

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    But which is better for you?


    The argument for traditional cardio exercise


    By "traditional cardio exercise," scientists are usually referring to longer bouts of lower-intensity exercise.  There are cases both for and against this type of workout.  Here are some of the key research findings:


    • In a new study from Queen's University in Ontario, Canada, doing 150 minutes of exercise was found to be as  good for you if done all at once as it would be if broken up into several sessions.  It didn't matter if people did 150 minutes once a week or 30 minutes of exercise five times a week, for example.  In the end, it was all about the total amount, not the frequency.

    The argument for high-intensity interval training

    The new hot trend in exercise is high-intensity interval training, in which short bouts of hard exercise are combined with periods of rest to create a much shorter, more focused workout.  This may be better suited for the modern adult who may have limited time to get in his or her exercise.  But is it any healthier than training for a longer duration?


    • In a study from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, four minutes of exercise may be all you need.  This short period of exercise was all people needed, according to the study, to develop endurance and health gains.  However, the four-minute workout is deceiving, as it's actually 16 minutes – a one-minute interval performed at 90 percent maximum heart rate followed by a three minute rest, repeated four times.  The researchers saw metabolic and cardiovascular health improvements, plus better blood sugar control and blood pressure profiles in those who used this style of exercise.
    • A study from the University of Copenhagen found that working out longer doesn't necessarily show any greater health benefits than for a shorter period.  Working out 30 minutes a day is just as good as 60 minutes, the study found.  Among slightly overweight (but otherwise healthy) young men, those who exercise for 30 minutes daily lost a similar amount of weight and body fat as those who did 60 minutes of daily exercise.


Published On: July 12, 2013

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