Friday, November 4, 2011

High Intensity vs. Low Intensity: Which Is Better?

Hey fitness peeps! How's it going? I hope everyone is happy & healthy! I know with the holidays coming up, this time of the year can often make for a stressful time, making it even harder to stay focused on your goals, but I encourage you to hang in there and keep on keeping on! The new year will be here before you know it and I want you to go into 2012 feeling good about yourself and your progress. I know a lot of people around this time of year make losing weight and getting fit & healthy their new year's resolution, but I for one am not fond of that. I'm a firm believer in the saying "why put off tomorrow what you can do today?" Won't you feel good entering 2012 already ahead of the game rather than just starting? So DON'T GIVE UP AND DON'T GIVE IN! 

Now that I've got my mini-motivational speech out of the way :), let's get to the subject of this post. I know some of you have been at this for awhile and even though you're eating healthy and in moderation, and exercising 4 to 5 times a week (maybe more), you're still not seeing the results you'd like to see. While before you were losing inches consistently and/or losing 1 to 2 pounds every week, the scale has stalled and the inches have stopped coming off. In other words, you've officially hit a plateau. I've been there and it's not fun, but there are ways you can try and fight it and get your metabolism revving again. One of those ways is by increasing the intensity of your workouts. Now you may be thinking, "Jonelle, I'm working out everyday! I don't understand, why would the intensity of my workouts matter?" What's the difference between high and low intensity? Which is better?  Let's discuss...

High Intensity Vs. Low Intensity
Let’s solve the debate on low intensity vs. high intensity workouts. There are many conflicting statements about how long and how hard you need to exercise in order to lose weight. A high intensity workout is defined as exercises which push your heart rate up to 75% of its maximum or more. High intensity workouts have been proven to increase metabolism and burn more calories. In fact, high intensity burns 9 times more fat per each calorie burn during exercise. The reality is that the activity that expends the greatest amount of total calories will lead to the most amount of fat burned. Best of all, the benefits become evident in a matter of weeks!

Low Intensity Workout vs. High Intensity Workouts 

Low Intensity Workout:
50% MHR = 7 calories per minute
90% of those calories are burning fat tissue

High Intensity Workout:
75% MHR = 14 calories per minute
60% of those calories are burning fat tissue

From the above figures, it appears that you burn more fat tissue when working at a lower intensity (90% vs. 60% from fat tissue), but these numbers are misleading.  Lets look at them another way:
Low Intensity Workout:
90% x 7 calories per minute = 6.30 fat calories burned per minute

High Intensity Workout:
60% x 14 calories per minute = 8.40 fat calories burned per minute

After you do the math, you can see that you burn a greater amount of fat tissue calories from a high intensity workout than a low intensity workout (8.4 vs. 6.3 calories burned per minute). 

So high intensity vs. low intensity, which one is better? The reality is that low intensity exercise burns fewer calories. To achieve the same benefits of a high intensity workout, you are going to have to exercise longer.

Now all of this is not to say that low intensity workouts are bad. Low intensity exercises are beneficial for warming up and cooling down, before and after high intensity phases. Low intensity exercises are also good for the elderly, anyone recovering from an illness or injury, someone who is significantly overweight and out of shape, or someone who is just beginning to workout.  An excellent approach to your training is to mix intensities. Sometimes you go easy and long, and other times you go hard and fast. I do this all the time. Just remember, high intensity exercise is NOT for beginners or those with certain health problems. Never workout more than you are in shape to do. Higher intensity workouts should be reserved for those who are already physically fit or have at least been exercising regularly for at least a few months.

To help you out here is a list of the top ten cardio exercises that burn the most calories in 30 minutes:

  1. Step aerobics – this type of exercise mainly targets your legs, hips and glutes, and can burn approx. 400 calories in 30 minutes (Believe me, I know! I just got into stepping around a month ago and it is NO JOKE! An oldie' but a goodie!)
  2. Bicycling – stationary or outdoors, this is a great cardio exercise. Depending on resistance and speed, bicycling can burn 250 to 500 calories in 30 minutes. 
  3. Swimming – the breaststroke can burn approx. 400 calories in 30 minutes. 
  4. Racquetball – the side-to-side sprinting makes this an excellent cardio workout. 
  5. Rock climbing – is not only a cardio exercise, but it also uses arm and leg strength.
  6. Cross-country skiing – is an unbelievable cardio exercise as it engages both upper and lower body, whether done on a machine or outdoors in snow. 
  7. Running – this is an outstanding cardio exercise because all you need is a pair of quality running shoes. 
  8. Rowing – gives your arms an incredible workout. 
  9. Elliptical trainer – a great way to build endurance. 
  10. Walking – a less strenuous form of cardio exercise.

source(s): and

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