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HIIT vs. Steady State vs. Aerobic Intervals - which is best?

AnvilHeadAnvilHead Member Posts: 18,515 Member Member Posts: 18,515 Member

^ A study sponsored by the ACE (American Council on Exercise), conducted by researchers in the Department of Exercise Sport Science at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse. Previously sedentary, beginner trainers were stratified into three groups for an 8-week study. One group performed steady state cardio, one performed Tabata (HIIT) intervals and one did moderate intensity aerobic intervals.

All three groups experienced significant improvements in VO2max, power output and exercise capacity. The individual stats/graphs are laid out in the study, but the tl;dr version is that the changes were largely statistically identical between groups.

An interesting and noteworthy discussion takes place as to the "Enjoyment Scale" of exercise, postulating that personal preference should be taken into consideration (personality and goals of the individual) when selecting an exercise modality. As has often been discussed in exercise threads here, the "best" workout is the one you'll actually do - and continue to do. Here is an excerpt from the discussion regarding enjoyment scale and adherence (emphasis added):
One day during each week of the eight-week program, study participants completed the Exercise Enjoyment Scale (EES) (Stanley, Williams and Cumming, 2010). The EES was administered before, during and after training to determine the subject’s perceived level of enjoyment (on a scale of 0 to 7).

The major finding was that the EES declined progressively across the duration of the study for all three groups. Additionally, the EES was lowest during the most intense training scheme (i.e., the Tabata Group). Stated simply, the subjects were significantly less likely to enjoy the most intense training protocol, and their enjoyment of all of the protocols declined over time.

Tabata-type protocols (very high-intensity intervals with very short recovery periods) are so physically challenging that they are unlikely to be perceived as pleasant. Regardless of how effective an exercise training program might be, adherence over any meaningful period of time is unlikely in programs that are not enjoyable.

The fact that the participants’ level of enjoyment was declining over the course of the study in all three training groups should be highly concerning to health and fitness professionals, as it is likely that most of these newcomers to exercise would drop out of their programs in the coming weeks if their enjoyment of exercise continued to wane (and it is certainly possible that being part of a research study is all that kept some of them on board). Given that dropout is a primary concern for all new clients, identifying the most enjoyable program, rather than the most effective one, could be an important focus of future research.
edited March 2017


  • jemhhjemhh Member Posts: 14,274 Member Member Posts: 14,274 Member
    Great study/article/post. This should be added to the Most Helpful Posts thread.
  • TacklewasherTacklewasher Member Posts: 7,131 Member Member Posts: 7,131 Member
    jemhh wrote: »
    Great study/article/post. This should be added to the Most Helpful Posts thread.

  • AnvilHeadAnvilHead Member Posts: 18,515 Member Member Posts: 18,515 Member
    try2again wrote: »
    Thank you for this! I've often wondered if my chosen forms of exercise were "intense" enough to be useful. Sounds like the important thing is that I'm still doing them after a couple of years ;)

    Bottom line is that if it's sustainable and is helping you toward your desired goals, it's useful.
  • robertw486robertw486 Member, Greeter Posts: 2,235 Member Member, Greeter Posts: 2,235 Member
    Good study overall, and no doubt the exercise people continue to do will reap the most benefits over time. It would be interesting to see if the results were similar in people with higher training levels.

    A couple things do stand out to me though, those being the significant IMO change in aerobic power, and the slight decrease in blood lactate in the Tabata group. I also find the breakdown of the weights in the mens group rather strange, as it seems almost as if they biased the heaviest men towards the steady state, the middleweights to the Tabata, and the lighter weights to the Meyer intervals.

    As for the enjoyment ratings, to me it seems a good indication that people get bored doing the same thing over and over regardless of what it is. And while I won't speak for others, that applies to me. If I don't mix it up some I find it just turns into a blah fest regardless.
  • try2againtry2again Member Posts: 3,564 Member Member Posts: 3,564 Member
  • BecMarty14BecMarty14 Member Posts: 351 Member Member Posts: 351 Member
    I like to keep trying new things.
  • MelanieCN77MelanieCN77 Member Posts: 4,051 Member Member Posts: 4,051 Member
    I'm sure HIIT has plenty benefits but I don't care for it. I just gave it a good try, couple times a week for 8-9 weeks and one day I was just like why am I still doing this.
  • MarkusDarwathMarkusDarwath Member Posts: 393 Member Member Posts: 393 Member
    One thing I note, the article seems to dismiss the 50% time savings of the Tabata workouts for the same results by saying the need for extra recovery time negates that advantage, however, if we're talking about beginners going to the gym, there's going to be an extra amount of time used beyond the workout for travel, changing clothes, etc, regardless of type of workout. Unless they are saying the Tabata participants are so wiped they can't even get up and walk to their car for 10 or more minutes, the increased recovery time for HIIT would overlap with the secondary time expenditure inherent in any training program... so they would still take up less time overall out of a typical person's day.
  • southernmuscle29southernmuscle29 Member Posts: 7 Member Member Posts: 7 Member
    I love HIIT. Usually do it after my upper body day workouts
  • litorialitoria Member Posts: 254 Member Member Posts: 254 Member
    I like all of them, they help vary my routine.

    Me too. Keeps things interesting and I find I'll stay with it if I mix thing up a bit. It can also be fun to experiment on yourself :-)
  • try2againtry2again Member Posts: 3,564 Member Member Posts: 3,564 Member
    Why was my bump flagged on this thread? Does someone think it means something derogatory? ;)
  • Wheelhouse15Wheelhouse15 Member Posts: 5,594 Member Member Posts: 5,594 Member
    try2again wrote: »
    Why was my bump flagged on this thread? Does someone think it means something derogatory? ;)

    Somebody doesn't know what the Spam Flag is for.
  • Timshel_Timshel_ Member Posts: 22,908 Member Member Posts: 22,908 Member
    ninerbuff wrote: »
    Lol, some people used to laugh at my ACE certification. Having access to all the articles, I should go back and post some of the more interesting ones like this.

    A.C.E. Certified Personal and Group Fitness Trainer
    IDEA Fitness member
    Kickboxing Certified Instructor
    Been in fitness for 30 years and have studied kinesiology and nutrition


    ACE was my second cert after I graduated college and had my board cert with NATA. I actually thought the ACE program itself was well structured and worthy. ASCM recognition was always the gold standard, but I don't think they had a personal training certification until after 2000, and I was just moving out of the field to computers again.
  • JoRockaJoRocka Member Posts: 17,583 Member Member Posts: 17,583 Member
    Azdak wrote: »
    I think that all training intensities have a place in a balanced training program.

    HIIT is a very powerful training stimulus. The benefits on fitness improvement cannot be denied.

    However, one of my peeviest pet peeves about the overhyping of HIIT is when it is marketed as an “easy” way to fit exercise into a busy schedule.

    I just saw another ad recently that started off with “one of the reasons people find it hard to stick with an exercise program is the time commitment...wouldn’t you love to be able to get fit and healthy in just minutes a day?” And then it into some blahblahblah about a one minute workout.

    It’s just dishonest.

    It's not dishonest- it IS an easy way to fit fitness into a busy schedule.

    I think it's dishonest to say you're going to get "fit and healthy" in just minutes a day - but it IS true- HIIT helps you get cardio work in to your life in an efficient time saving manner. I can do a workout while a cake bakes- AND shower before it's done. - like- that's not going to happen with 45 min of steady state fasted work.
  • HoneyBadger302HoneyBadger302 Member Posts: 1,487 Member Member Posts: 1,487 Member
    Interesting article, basically - do something.

    Personally I like variety, so prefer a HIIT or Interval, BUT, I need steady state endurance as well, so have to include it in my training plan (despite my dislike of it LOL).
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