I am sure you have heard of HITT– and if you never heard of it, there is a 95% chance you have seen someone doing a HIIT workout before (although you might not have recognized it as HIIT workout at the time). HIIT is otherwise known as high intensity interval training and it is a very popular form of exercise to do now-a-days. It is a very effective workout style and people rave about the positive results they get, relative to the small-time requirements that HITT workout sessions usually take in general.
Here is a direct definition from the dictionary: Hight Intensity Interval Training (1) – physical training that consists of short periods of intense (= very energetic) exercise with short periods of rest in between.
Because of HITT’s popularity, many people perceive steady state training as less effective or they simply think it is inferior to HITT. But that is technically not true in every case. In fact, when it comes to cardiovascular health, neither one (HITT or Steady-State Training) is better than the other. Continue reading to learn about the impact of HITT vs Steady State Training on your cardiovascular health. I will also explain in this short video if you prefer to watch and listen.
To help with explaining the impacts of HITT vs steady state training on your cardiovascular health, I’d like to tell you about a study that was published in the Journal of Sports and Medicine (1) a few years ago.
Journal of Sports and Medicine Study
The study compared the effects of HIIT vs steady-state training on aerobic and anaerobic capacity following 8-weeks of training. The study consisted of 55 untrained college-aged subjects – so, these were basically people who never trained before, or at least considered to be people who did not work out. College age ranges could be anywhere from 18-24 on average.
The subjects were randomly split into 3 different training groups that worked out 3 times per week. Also, the study consisted of both men of women.
And the groups were broken down as follows:
The Steady-State Group
- Group #1 – This group consisted of 19 subjects that exercised on stationary bicycles for 20 minutes at 90% of ventilatory threshold. Each subject did 24 training sessions for 8 weeks.
The HITT Groups
- Group #2 – This group consisted of 21 subjects and that did Tabata, which is a form of HIIT. Each subject completed eight intervals of 20 seconds at 170% their VO2 max with 10 seconds of rest. Each subject did 24 training sessions for 8 weeks.
- Group #3 – This group consisted of 15 subjects doing Meyer. Each subject in this group completed 20-minute sessions that consisted of 13 sets with 30 seconds at 100% PVO2 max and 60 seconds of recovery. Each subject did 24 training sessions for 8 weeks.
“when looking deeper at those steep increases, they concluded that there were no significant differences.”Lu from YAstrength
At the conclusion of this study, the researchers found significant increases in the VO2 max across for all 3 groups, as well as significant increases in peak & mean power during Wingate testing. But, when looking deeper at those steep increases, they concluded that there were no significant differences between the amongst the 3 groups.
The VO2 max across all the groups increased by +19, +18 and +18% respectively, which shows that there aren’t any notable differences in the results. Plus, the percentage increase in peak and power during the Wingate testing were similar close as well. Interestingly enough, this study also observed and measured each subject’s enjoyment throughout the 8 weeks. While the enjoyment of all 3 groups declined, their measures of the enjoyment indicated that the HITT group (specifically those that did Tabata) was significantly less enjoyable than the steady state group. This has nothing to do with cardiovascular health, but its food for thought if you are considering what type of training would be more enjoyable long-term.
TO CLOSE – LAST WORDS
So, what can we take from this study? Essentially, the above results suggest that there is NO advantage in doing high intensity interval training vs. steady state training when it comes to anaerobic and aerobic capacity. So, although HIIT can be more time effective for other reasons, at least you know it isn’t more optimal as it relates to your cardiovascular health.
Also, keep in mind that this study consisted of untrained and relatively healthy college aged young adults. The results could be different for other age groups or levels of training experience in general. But, in any case, this should help clear up some confusion regarding which is more effective when it comes to cardiovascular health.
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