Is High or Low Intensity Training Better?

by | 11 Apr 2019 | training

Is high or low intensity training better? Let’s look at that. Bob and Jo are good mates. Bob gets up each morning and runs for 60 minutes at a steady pace (between 40-60% of his maximum heart rate). Jo gets up each morning and sprints as hard as he can for 20 seconds (90-100% maximum heart rate), rests for a minute, and then repeats the sprint-cycle for 20 minutes. Bob’s a fan of LIT (low intensity training), whereas Jo likes HIT (high intensity training). But, which is best? 


The High Intensity and Low Intensity Training Debate

The old LIT versus HIT debate. Before you get on your high horse and judge one style of cardio over the other, let’s take a look at the advantages and disadvantages of both. After that, feel free to judge away on whichever style is most suitable for you!


Low Intensity Training


  • This old school method has been given a bad rep in the last few years. Whilst it’s not the most exciting way to work out, it does do the job. LIT can certainly help you to drop weight. For example, just walking at 3.2km/ph can burn around 250 calories per hour. A gentle cycle at a leisurely pace, on the other hand can burn around 350 calories an hour.
  • Whilst HIT can help build muscle, LIT can build muscle endurance. LIT sessions provide a high number of repetitions (e.g. steps or pedal strokes) at low resistance. Because this resistance is low, the stress on your muscles is also less than with HIT, so it may not take as long to recover after each session as well.


  • However, because you’re not exerting yourself with LIT as greatly as you are with HIT, you burn less calories, and most importantly, don’t burn as much of the dreaded F- word… (fat)
  • LIT can be time-consuming and if we’re really honest, somewhat dull. Motivation can be seriously tested running or cycling at the same pace for the same amount of time day in day out.
  • Plus, you’re more likely to reach a fitness plateau with LIT than you are with HIT. This is because your body can quickly adapt to repetitive workouts.


High Intensity Training


  • It’s more fun. Well, it’s up to you if ‘fun’ is the right word there, but it’s certainly less monotonous than LIT can be. Breaking up your training into repeated cycles of short bursts helps to keep the mind focused on the task at hand and enables maximum effort.
  • It’s time efficient. You can get your workout done and dusted in half or even less than half the time it would take to burn the same amount of calories through LIT. That means less time sweating your heart out, and more time for you tim
  • A fat shredder. For those of you out there looking for cheese-grater abs then HIT is most likely the one for you. It’s thought that the ‘after burn effect’ is the reason why HIT is such a good fat-burner. This is due to the metabolism remaining elevated for hours after an intense workout.


  • However, with HIT workouts, you’re constantly pushing yourself and your body to its limits, and this can take its toll. There’s a higher probability of overreaching and overtraining with HIT if you’re not careful. This is the case particularly if you’re also doing strength training as well.
  • Aches and pains are common. This can lead to less effort going into subsequent training sessions and possibly burnout and injury in the longer term.
  • Clearly, suitable rest and recovery (potentially mixed with LIT training) is essential to avoid such consequences.


The Verdict – High or Low Intensity Training?

LIT and HIT, they’re like Vegemite, you get lovers and you get haters. There’s no denying that both types of training can help to improve your fitness levels and overall health. But instead of just sticking to one of them, why not try both? Variety is the spice of life, and it’s crucial to constantly mix up your training to keep your body guessing and your fitness levels progressing. After all, didn’t Einstein say “the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results”? Go on, mix it up, HIT and LIT, no one likes a nutcase…