There are a few different ways of doing your cardio sessions – each have their own benefits.
Interval training is a popular type of training that has hit the media over the last few years. There are basically two types.
Reason why its gained a lot of attention is that it’s over quick – so great for those busy people or those who dont like to exercise that much!
HIIT – High Intensity Interval Training
HIIT training is working at levels of approx 80% of your max HR – completed in bouts with rest intervals.
1:1 ratio (ie 3min ex : 3min recovery) – this method is a great way to increase your aerobic capacity – it’s usually completed at lower intensity due to the longer work time.
1:2 ratio – completed at a higher intensity for shorter duration. It will increase your anaerobic glycolosis system, otherwise known as the lactate system. This is used for sports and events that use shorter bursts of hard effort.
1:3 ratio – steps it uo a notch with very high effort (ie 20sec ex : 60sec recovery). This is used for activities of very short duration – like 100 or 200m sprints, long jump etc.
SIT – Supra-maximal Interval Training
SIT training is where you push the boundaries even further and go beyond your max – aka as fast as you physically can! Often the intervals are very short with longer recovery ratio ie (5-15sec ex : 30-120 recovery).
Studies have shown that repeated bouts all out effort may be superior in performance gains than HIIT, and the total duration of effort can be much shorter.
MCT – Moderate Continuous Training
MCT is the traditional method of cardio.
The typical 60-80% of max HR over a long period of time (20+mins).
This is the standard method of cardio – which boosts your aerobic fitness and general health.
Which one should you do?
Benefits are similar when we are talking for general health. The difference comes in the fact that intervals – being harder and require more recovery – don’t need to be completed as often.
MCT – 5-7 training days per week
Intervals – 3 training days per week
Looking at managing chronic diseases such as diabetes or heart disease – the intensity doesn’t really matter – you just need to exercise regularly. How you do it boils down to what you like and how much time/energy you’ve got.
With all of this in mind – recent studies looking at patients with heart failure have demonstrated that HIIT of longer duration (4mins ex : 3mins recovery, x4) have shown greater changes in the hearts pumping ability (Ejection Fraction) than standard MCT.
MCT only improved EF by 1%, whereas HIIT increased EF by 10%!
The only problem with these findings is that research is new – and although HIIT has been shown to be safe in cardiac populations – it has been suggested that people need to have a good base of fitness first ie 3-6mths of MCT, before starting harder exercise.