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High-Intensity Interval Training vs Low-Intensity Training: A Comparative Study on Recreational Athletes

Beth Bradford

Jul 17, 2023

Is it better to go faster or farther to get a PR?

In the world of sports and fitness, training methods and their effectiveness are consistently hot topics. Recently, a study conducted by the University of Jyväskylä in Finland delved deep into this subject, comparing the physiological, perceptual, and performance responses to 2-week blocks of high-intensity interval training (HIIT) and low-intensity training (LIT) among recreational athletes. 

The study aimed to shed light on the outcomes of these two prevalent training methods. The research, published in the journal Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, involved thirty recreational athletes who were divided into two groups. One group performed ten sessions of high-intensity interval training (HIIT), while the other group increased their low-intensity running volume by 70%.

The main goal of the study was to determine the effects of these different training methods on the 3000m running performance of the participants. Both the HIIT and LIT groups showed improvements in their 3000m running time after the training block and a recovery week. However, the researchers found no significant differences between the groups, suggesting that both training methods can be effective in enhancing running performance.

What sets this study apart is the examination of physiological responses to the training blocks. The HIIT block resulted in increased muscle soreness but a decrease in heart rate variability compared to the LIT block. Remember that a low heart rate variability indicates a need for more recovery time. This indicates that while HIIT may lead to similar performance improvements as LIT, it may have a higher physical toll on the body. 

The study also found correlations between running speed during HIIT sessions, subjective recovery markers, and changes in running performance. This suggests that monitoring these factors during training could be beneficial for optimizing performance improvements. 

The findings of this study offer fresh insights into the ongoing debate of HIIT versus LIT. While both methods led to performance improvements, the physiological responses varied, with HIIT seeming to place more strain on the body. These findings can be a valuable resource for coaches, trainers, and athletes in tailoring training programs to suit individual needs and goals. 

It's also important to note that this study focused on recreational athletes, and results may vary among professional athletes or individuals with different fitness levels. As always, more research is needed to fully understand the complex interplay of physiological, perceptual, and performance responses to different training methods. But for now, the study provides a solid foundation for understanding the effects of HIIT and LIT on recreational athletes. 

In conclusion, whether you're a fitness enthusiast, a recreational athlete, or a trainer looking for the best method to improve performance, both HIIT and LIT have their benefits. It's crucial to be aware of the physiological impacts of these methods and consider individual fitness levels, recovery, and goals when choosing a training protocol. This study is a step forward in the quest for the most effective training methods, and it's exciting to see what future research will bring to this field.

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