Low-intensity, steady-state cardio makes a comeback in 2016

By Annamarie Wadiak

(frankieleon/ Flickr)
(frankieleon/ Flickr)

For years, a heated debate has been raging among fitness-enthusiasts regarding which type of cardio is the most effective.  Low-intensity, steady-state training (LISS) like jogging, walking, biking, stepping and rowing won the day until recently being overshadowed by high-intensity interval training (HIIT) and all of its fat-burning, muscle-toning benefits. While fitness buffs argue for the effectiveness of HIIT workouts as a regular part of exercise routines, 2016 might just be the year that LISS gets back some of the attention it lost.

The current argument against HIIT as compared to LISS is that HIIT often leads to injuries and overtraining when done in excess. It is also argued that the tiring, short spurts of high exertion in HIIT are just not as enjoyable and cause a negative relationship with the exerciser. Instances of injury, overuse and energy loss do an effective job of discouraging many exercisers from HIIT, which ultimately leads to the quitting or lessening of workout routines. LISS on the other hand, has a better track record when it comes to hooking in its participants. Avid runners, bikers and steppers always tote the benefits and entertainment of their sports. It is an event for them to go out and exercise and is part of their daily schedules. The kind of long-lasting exercises that LISS offers create a long-term relationship with the exerciser. On the other hand, HIIT workouts are short-lived and need to be changed constantly in order to avoid plateau or overuse, thus making it more difficult for maintaining a constant workout regimen.

Another point against HIIT workouts are that they are less readily obtainable to the general public. When you walk into the gym, there are rows and rows of LISS machines, from ellipticals to treadmills to bikes. Even though there are mats to use for HIIT workouts, there are no specific pieces of equipment that people can hop on and start a workout. HIIT workouts require people to print out a routine or memorize a combination, which is something that the average gym goer, rushing to the gym for an hour between classes or work, does not have the time, energy or desire to do. HIIT workouts take a lot of effort and they are tiring. It is much simpler and less of a hindrance for people to just stroll into the gym, plug in their music or TV show, and get moving on a machine.

All that said, HIIT workouts are a fantastic way to get in shape and stay fit. According to the American College of Sports Medicine, HIIT is proven to improve blood pressure and cholesterol, increase energy and burn fat at a more accelerated rate. Still, these benefits are only benefits if the exerciser develops an effective routine and sticks to that set routine. When it comes right down to it, you have to choose the type of cardio that is right for you. Some people cannot get enough of running, while others would rather throw themselves to the ground than run another mile. Some people can do 10 sprints and 20 burpees without blinking an eye, while others find this type of exercise taxing and annoying. Exercising should be enjoyable with just the right amount of difficultly; otherwise the health benefits will be thwarted by fatigue and lack of interest. Only you know what you like and what you will stick to. The really important thing is to find exercises that you love and enjoy your own definition of fitness.

Annamarie Wadiak can be reached at [email protected]