Which Type of Workout is Best: Short and Intense or Long with Moderate Intensity?

No matter how you look at it, daily physical activity is important for optimal health. Recently, British journalist and political commentator Andrew Marr suffered a stroke that was blamed on a short, intense workout, causing some in the medical profession to warn that exercise can actually be bad for you.

Of course, couch potatoes who tend to put off even the thought of getting up and getting active will immediately hear, “I don’t need to exercise! It’s bad for me!”

That is certainly not the case. Exercise is one of the single best things you can do for your health, but if you have underlying health issues and take working out to an extreme, it can have negative consequences.

What are we to believe when it comes to the best type of workout? Are short, intense workouts dangerous or are they preferable to long, moderate bouts of exercise? With so much conflicting information available, it can seem rather confusing.

High Intensity, Shorter Workouts

High-intensity training in short bursts provides a natural boost to human growth hormone production, which is essential for optimal health. It has also been shown to increase fat loss and muscle growth as well as significantly improve insulin sensitivity.

Research has shown that just 20 minutes of high intensity training, two to three times per week, can even lead to better results than slow and steady workouts performed five times a week.

The key factor is that damage can set in when intensely exercising for periods of an hour or more at a time. Your heart is designed to work hard – and will be strengthened by doing so, but it is only designed to work this way intermittently and for shorter periods.

Many health experts feel that short bursts of high intensity exercise are the most effective and efficient form of exercise. It appears that this type of exercise offers unique health benefits that are not derived from regular aerobic exercise.

Moderate Intensity, Longer Workouts

The evidence that quick and hard produces optimal results is rather overwhelming, but if you enjoy going out for a long, leisurely run there is no reason to stop doing so. Just remember to run or workout at a “conversational pace.”

For many, long, slow runs are an excellent way to reduce emotional and mental stress, however, running too many days in a row puts a great deal of pressure on bones and joints, especially if you are running on a solid surface such as concrete.

weight trainingIf possible, alternate long runs with other forms of exercise such as biking, swimming, yoga, pilates, high intensity or resistance training. Varying your routine will keep all muscle groups toned and give your knees, lower back and ankles a chance to recover.

The Bottom Line

Both low and high intensity exercise have benefits, although high intensity workouts have been shown to produce faster results. If you enjoy longer, slower workouts consider switching things up a day or two out of the week.

The most important thing is to get out and exercise!

-The Alternative Daily

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