Should you choose high-intensity interval training (HIIT) or endurance training? This is the first question for many people trying to find the best workout for their age, physical ability and fitness goals.

Each type of training has its pros and cons. However, research from the University of New Mexico and Central Michigan University found that HIIT and endurance training can be great alternatives for each other. The report mentions that “exercise scientists demonstrate HIIT not only provides performance benefits for athletes, but it also improves the health of recreational exercisers and may be a suitable alternative to endurance training, or continuous aerobic exercise.”

However, there are certainly differences between the exercises and both hold unique opportunities and challenges. The benefits of HIIT are solid, but it’s also important to remember that endurance, defined as steady-state cardio training, is just as important. Endurance training may take more time, but it offers many health benefits with fewer risks.

This helpful guide can help you decide what the best training is for you.

HIIT Training

HIIT is a popular way to lose weight, increase fitness, and improve overall arithmetic performance. It requires much effort over a short, seven-minute workout timeframe for the best results. HITT offers the best option for those who want an effective payoff without having to spend too much time at the gym.

HITT affects metabolism differently than endurance training. With endurance training, the main goal is to convert stored fat into energy, which requires a lot of oxygen or aerobic metabolism. HITT contrasts by using both aerobic and anaerobic metabolism to create high-energy for working out. During moderate to high-intensity intervals of the workout, aerobic metabolism converts fat, protein and carbs to energy with oxygen. During the high-intensity rhythms of the workout, anaerobic metabolism converts glucose and glycogen into energy. Without a lot of oxygen, lactic acid accumulates in the muscles, which causes the burning sensation that comes with heavy exercise. The dual-process can also spur hormonal changes that burn fat effectively and continue after the training is over.


HITT Challenges

The main challenges of HITT programs are fairly transparent. You only get the best results if you put in the time. Many people don’t keep up with it because of that reason. Over time, people pay more time to the clock and less to the quality of the high-intensity exercise. For others, it’s hard to train at the intensity needed to achieve great results. Those that can cope have difficulty motivating themselves to face extreme physical duress and pain with every workout. The point of HITT is to get results through heavy breathing, muscle pains and lots of sweat. But without a personal trainer or class to keep it up, many people give up because of the intensity. Ultimately, it’s not something you should do every day and requires at least one or two days of recovery. 


Endurance Training

HITT may be high-level fitness, but it isn’t necessarily better at burning calories. Longer, steady-state cardio sessions can burn just as many calories, if not more, over short HITT sessions. In endurance training, you aren’t deprived of oxygen, and you can reach the endurance zone allowing you to stay active for longer. In this exercise, glucose and glycogen levels are quickly consumed during anaerobic workouts, so you hit your tolerance more quickly. But building this endurance is good for your heart levels. With HITT, trainees push themselves to 95% of their maximum heart rate (MHR) and then stop when exhausted, but endurance training only pushes them to 60 to 70 percent of their MHR. Over time, it reduces both the resting heart rate and blood pressure, which signals improved cardiovascular health.

Endurance training can be acquired through biking, a full day of hiking, cross-country skiing, or paddling, and you can burn 2,000 calories or more. Plus, you can enjoy the outdoors while you workout. With shorter recovery times, you can make exercise more enjoyable and reduce the risk of injury and burnout.


No matter your fitness goals, both HITT and endurance training can get you to exercise goals and they are two paths that lead to the same destination. One is more difficult but shorter and the other is longer but less physically stressful.

Numerous factors will go into your decision, but you don’t even have to choose one over the other. You can include both of them in your training schedule, and even incorporate strength or circuit training in the mix. The more you diversity your workouts, the less likely you will feel bored or overwhelmed.