Fitness in the New Year – HIIT or Running?

Welcome to 2020 – a new decade and a fresh start. This is a great time for most people to start on their new year’s resolution and for many of us, this includes starting a diet or an exercise regime.

We all know that exercising is good for us but we all have time pressures for work, for family and life in general. So for the exercise regime to work well, it has to be effective and efficient. But not just that, it must be convenient and yes, it has to be fun as well.

High Intensity Interval Training

There is a wave of High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) gyms which have sprouted in the last few years and it is gaining popularity fast. HIIT involves short bursts of intense exercise alternated with recovery periods and it just may the most time effective way to lose weight. Workouts are just typically 10-40 mins long and usually involve biking, jumping rope or other body weight exercises like burpees and mountain climbers.

One of the most common issues with HIIT is the fact that many participants get injured during the fast-paced workout. There is little time to transition between sets and as the body tires, the posture often takes a backseat and injuries occur. It is important that participants remember that when they start to fatigue, it is best to take the weights off and focus on posture and doing the exercises well. There is much more benefit to a single, well executed push-up vs 20 badly done ones.

Long Distance Running

Long Distance Running (LDR) has been the preferred method of getting fitter for many years. Running at a steady state over an extended period of time of 20mins to hours allows the runner to pace himself such that he does not over-exert and last longer. We also find that the delayed onset muscle soreness is also a lot less with long distance running as compared with high intensity exercises like HIIT.

There are some drawbacks to LDR though – when someone runs very regularly, the repeated stress on the same joints may cause injuries to occur. Keeping the body in the stressed out state may also hinder fat loss and break down the muscle tissues. So it is also very important to vary the workout so that a variety of muscles are worked out during the week.

What should people do?

Time is a huge factor when it comes to exercising. HIIT seems to be a great way to lose the calories within fraction of time as compared with LDR. But the LDR camp would swear by the relaxing, mind-numbing effects of repetitive movements of running for longer periods.

What about the post exercise effects?

There is a factor called Excess Postexercise Oxygen Consumption (EPOC) or commonly known as the “afterburn” of exercise is what helps with weight loss or fat-burning after exercising. It is just really an increase in the oxygen uptake after exercise which helps the body to restore it back to the resting state such that it would be able to cope with the same amount of exercise in the future. This oxygen update requires energy and thus, weight loss/ fat burn! It was previously assumed that HIIT workouts (even if they last for just 20mins) utilise more EPOC. But we now have studies which prove that both continuous cardio (like cycling for 50mins) and HIIT have about the same energy consumption through the day.

What is your advice on loosing weight and getting healthy?

There is no one form of exercise which is superior – it just depends on which one works for you at that time. There are times when a good long trail run calls out to me after a particularly stressful week. Most days though, I need to have a short but solid 20mins of HIIT to get me started on the right footing.

There are heaps of options to start a physical activity and it does not have to cost an arm and a leg. A good pair of walking shoes is all one needs to start a simple stair climbing regime or a walk around the neighbourhood.

But the important thing is to get active and start moving and a good time is NOW

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