The most common exercise is of course “steady state” cardio — basically meaning that the intensity of the exercise is pretty consistent the whole time.
And that’s all well and good.
But the fact that this is recommended so often by health experts as THE guideline for how you SHOULD exercise just amazes the crap out of me!
Not going to name any names of any websites, but I just saw an article that said, you should be exercising hard enough that singing is difficult, but if you’re too out of breath to talk easily, you’re working too hard.
Again, this was meant to be a guideline about the sweet spot of the intensity level you “should” be exercising at. In fact you’ve likely heard this guideline yourself.
But I was just like, why exactly is that??
What’s wrong with being so out of breath you can’t talk?
But, you see advice like this making the rounds all the time. No wonder even people who want to kick it up a notch are stuck on their boring, steady bike or jog…
And wondering why they’re not seeing results, getting rid of chronic ailments, or feeling AMAZING the way they were promised the magical effects of exercise would be.
Exercise CAN have incredible transformative effects on your health and lifespan, but HIIT is way more of a guaranteed route to that than moderate exercise is.
Now, the reason for that is because it improves your aerobic capacity a lot more. Basically that means, you measure someone’s oxygen uptake, and the fitter you are and the harder you exercise, the more oxygen is absorbed everywhere in your body. This absolutely slashes your risk of heart disease and stroke.
In this Ted Talk, a study is mentioned where people who are already in the early stages of heart failure, and were in their 70s, practiced either HIIT or just moderate cardio.
This was after 12 weeks of HIIT, during which time they improved their aerobic fitness by almost 50%! I know you’re thinking, intense exercise for 70-year-olds with heart failure?? How did they not just keel over right there?
Well, keep in mind that HIIT is just about getting your body in fight or flight mode, and also reaching at least 70% of your maximum heart rate.
So for a 70-year-old, reaching 70% of their maximum heart rate is going to look a little different in terms of the exercise intensity, than for a 20-year-old!
And I do think that if you want to start HIIT, you need to have a strong foundation — from building up your core strength to building up your cardiac fitness. And you should always ask your doctor if you’re not sure!
But also, there are tons of guided classes and online workouts where a trainer is going to get you into the HIIT state, and it’s a proven workout! Is HIIT better than cardio? Yeah, and it’s more fun too! Just check this out:
More than anything, I’m just stuck on the fact that people with heart failure were able to basically UNDO it with high intensity workouts!
The Ted Talk also mentioned a study done on rats, where the rats were split into a group that did moderate exercise and a group that did HIIT. For the group that did HIIT, by the end of the study, those rats were actually in better shape than the control group of healthy rats that didn’t exercise!!
So one more time, “Is HIIT better than cardio that’s less intense?” Yes and yes!
Although I kind of hate using words like miracle and magic to describe the scientific reality that exercise is good for you…it is basically as close to a magic cure as you can get!
Like I said, a “super-exercise,” just like a superfood.
I think some people are afraid of HIIT either because they’re just kind of averse to pushing themselves so hard they get a little uncomfortable, or, they just don’t know where to start.