Confession—I hate HIIT. I know it’s good for me in so many ways: to burn calories, increase my metabolic rate, improve blood oxygen levels and reduce blood sugar levels. But I dislike it tremendously, detest the heart-pumping, out-of-breath, nauseous feeling that comes after fifteen minutes of things like burpees, KB swings, plank jacks or high knees.
If I must do something to raise my heart rate a bit, there’s nothing I like better than walking: long, languorous strolls on the beach listening to music or a podcast, a walk in the park with a friend, exploring a new city on shank’s mare. I don’t even mind gym cardio; thanks to my Netflix app, I now easily whizz through 45-minute on the cross-trainer while watching some godawful series peppered with serial killers and gore (Riverdale was my pick last month, don’t judge me). But is steady-state cardio, which has been getting some terrible PR over the last few years, even worth the effort?
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As always, the answer is complicated. HIIT is undoubtedly more time-efficient overall and tends to rev up your metabolism, inducing better fat burning. It is probably a better idea if you’re trying to lose fat while maintaining lean muscle since too much cardio can lead to muscle loss. And yes, I have friends who enjoy pushing their limits over and over again in a boot camp class.
I, however, am not one of them. Believe me, I have tried. Spinning, boot camps, sprint training and HIIT workout videos have all left me feeling miserable. Even worse, it caused me to get injured repeatedly, leaving me with a bad back and wonky knees for life.
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“I would suggest you avoid exercise with too many explosive movements,” said my doctor the last time I visited. Instead, he suggested I go back to the basics: easy cardio and strength training, which I have stuck to for the last few years.
And it turns out, that this may not be the worst choice as far as fitness is concerned. As ACE-certified trainer Sarah Haley points out in an article on her website, the problem with HIIT is that people sometimes do too much of it too often, causing injury, burnout or lack of results. According to her, steady-state cardio has benefits too: weight loss, calorie-burning, and endurance. Overall, it also puts less stress on your joints, making it a better choice for the injured, the old, or the overweight.
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For me, personally, the most salient factor is this: I like steady-state cardio. Like diets, the best workout plan is the one that fits in with your lifestyle and preferences, therefore ensuring adherence. (And yes, the sessions do go by faster thanks to many shirtless stills of actor Mark Consuelos, who plays Hiram Lodge on Riverdale, on whom I have a massive crush).