High-intensity exercise vs low-intensity exercise

Which Fitness Option is Right for You?

Exercise of any kind is important for maintaining a healthy body, but deciding between high-intensity or low-intensity exercise can be challenging. The type of exercise that’s right for you depends on various factors, including your current fitness levels, medical history, and fitness goals. Here, we take a look at the differences between high-intensity and low-intensity exercises and help you decide which option is best for you.

young woman on an exercise bike

What is High-Intensity Exercise?

High-intensity exercise refers to exercise that raises your heart rate and makes you break a sweat. It is great for improving cardiovascular health. However, not all high-intensity exercises are considered HIIT (high-intensity interval training), which involves maximum effort exercise for short bursts of time.

Running, jogging, playing football, and cycling are examples of high-intensity exercises that can improve cardiovascular health and burn calories quickly. However, it’s important to note that not all high-intensity exercises are High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT). HIIT is a specific type of high-intensity exercise that alternates periods of intense work with periods of recovery. Regular cardiovascular exercise can help reduce body fat. For example, 30 minutes of running can burn 300 calories, while performing 4-8 minutes of HIIT sprints at 90% max effort can result in the same calorie burn.

Who is High-Intensity Exercise Suitable For?

High-intensity exercise is great for anyone who wants to improve their fitness levels and burn calories quickly. However, it can be too intense for people with limited mobility, cardiovascular or respiratory conditions, or musculoskeletal injuries. The impact of high-intensity exercise can also cause pain and could create problems affecting the joints, such as osteoarthritis or gout. If you have any pre-existing conditions, it’s important to check with a doctor before starting a new exercise regime and gradually increase the intensity of your workouts over time.

What is Low-Intensity Exercise?

Low-intensity exercise refers to slow, gentle activities that are done for long periods. Examples include yoga, Pilates, walking, and swimming. These exercises are great for strengthening muscles and improving joint flexibility without putting a lot of stress on your joints or heart. While these exercises still increase your heart rate, they do so at a much gentler rate than high-intensity exercises, which usually involve slow and steady movements.

group personal training session

Who is Low-Intensity Exercise Suitable For?

Low-intensity exercise is ideal for people with low fitness levels or cardiovascular health problems. It can help to build stamina and heart health gradually, reducing the risk of injury. Low-impact exercises are less likely to damage joints, muscles, or ligaments, making it ideal for people with limited mobility or pre-existing injuries who want to improve their strength, mobility, and flexibility.

Combine High and Low-Intensity Exercise for Optimum Results

For optimal cardiovascular health, aim to do at least 30 minutes of low-intensity exercise five times a week, or 30 minutes of high-intensity exercise three times a week. Combining high- and low-intensity workouts can provide the best results as high-intensity exercise improves heart health and stamina, while low-intensity activities can help to build core strength and mobility.