The unsettled fitness debate: Long distance vs HIIT

Is it better to do long-distance running, or to do short sprints instead? This is one of those never-ending debates the answer to which is typically given the anti-climatic and pointless 'no'. It has to be more complicated than that, and it indeed is. There is some truth to the common-place answer that we rejected though. For example, tennis players are known to improve their fitness adopting both types of training. Murray was known for both his track sprints (he does intervals of 50m, 100m, 200m and 400m sprints) and running 7 miles between training places. In the deriving of our answer however, we need to weight the pros and cons of both..

Pros of long-distance running

  • Increases your aerobic capacity, which allows you to perform physical work for longer durations
  • Burn tons more calories
  • Gets you into the ‘fat burning zone’- you utilize fat and preserve muscle mass and carbohydrates when exercising
  • More palatable to a wider range of people. It is human nature to avoid pain, and physical pain to most is the greater pain than the pain of boredom, or the pain that comes from realizing that you are wasting so much time

Cons of long-distance running

  • The repeated pounding on the knees may result in long term injuries such as in the ankle, knee and hip joint, these include patella femoral pain syndrome, achilles tendonitis, and stress fractures. It is crucial to note that your joints are much more vulnerable than you think they are
  • The psychological problem of boredom. If we remember correctly, there was an article about how your mood has an effect on the effectiveness of your body in burning calories

Pros of HIIT

  • Burns calories efficiently, it does not burn as much fat as Long Duration Cardio during exercise, but HIIT burns more calories during the 24 hours post-workout
  • You kill two birds with one stone - you improve both anaerobic and aerobic capacity.
  • It is well, for a lack of a better way of putting it, more fun

Con(s) of HIIT

  • There is this argument that having only HIITs for your exercise will build up stress within you in the long run.

So what should you do?'

Here lies our answer - it depends on the person, and his or her unique fitness goals.

There are four types of people in our world-view:
1) Those who do not exercise nor play sport
2) Those who exercise for the sake of exercising
3) Those who do endurance sports, for etc. running, long-distance swimming
4) Those who do 'game' sports, for etc. tennis, football, badminton

  • If you belong to category 1), this article has been a good waste of time. We however would encourage you to get started exercising, if you do not have a fun sport in mind you think you will stick to.
  • If you belong to category 2), we would recommend you do both in equal proportions if you do not have a fitness aim. If your main aim is to be toned however, you should focus mainly on HIITs. If you only want to exercise for the sake of losing weight, do the long-distance mainly. 3) If you belong to category 3, do mainly long-distance training. However, do take note that some HIIT would be important, to maintain muscle strength
    4) If you belong to category 4, you would want to focus on HIIT. However, how balanced your HIIT-long distance ratio i will also depend on your personality and the type of sport you want to specialize further in. For soccer players, this ratio of theirs would be skewed more towards the long-distance part relative to tennis players. This also applies to grunts within each sport. For example, Ferrer does 10km warm-up runs, which I cannot imagine Federer even starting on...

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