20 Minute Intervals or 60 Minutes Cardio: Which is Better?

Whilst we all know that exercise is good for you, knowing what type of exercise to do and how frequently is a matter of some debate. Some insist that high intensity interval training gives the best result whilst others believe that the best long term approach is regular steady-state cardio training.

The truth, as is often the case, is somewhere in the middle. Both types of workout regime have their pros and cons. Which one you will lean towards more is a matter of personal preference; however, it is a good idea to incorporate features of both into your workout program to achieve the best results.

Interval Training

An interval training program usually incorporates a period of high intensity exercise quickly followed by a low intensity rest period. This is repeated over a workout session of 20 to 30 minutes. You could, for example, run for two minutes and then jog for one minute. Click here to find workout guides and videos online.

Interval training is particularly good for those who are short of time as sessions are shorter than those for steady-state programs. The intensity of interval training programs means that more calories are used up in a shorter space of time. Metabolism rates are also raised, both during and after workouts, meaning that the body learns to burn calories quicker.

Those just starting on an exercise regime can, however, find interval training hard going initially, which can be demoralising. Additionally, interval training should only be carried out two or three times a week meaning that those who like to exercise more frequently will need to combine other activities into their workout program.

Steady State Training

A steady state training program is one that is based on cardiovascular workouts that usually last for between 30 and 60 minutes. The intensity of the workout should remain roughly the same throughout.

The main benefit of a steady state workout is that it uses more calories than interval training, primarily because it is carried out for longer. Cardio workouts are good for those just starting out on an exercise regime as they give lots of opportunities for steady improvement. They also benefit those who want to exercise frequently.

Some people do, however, find it difficult to maintain motivation; carrying out the same activity for an extended period of time leads to boredom. Additionally, steady state exercise regimes do not have the same long term effect on metabolism that interval training does.

Which to Opt for

Carrying out 20 minutes of interval training or 50 minutes of cardio exercise is largely a matter of personal preference. Whilst the cardio training will result in a larger number of calories being burned in the short term, the interval training will have a greater long term effect due to it boosting the metabolic rate; the rate at which we burn calories.

The best workout programs will usually include a mixture of these two different types of training as this will give the best overall benefit. Of course, it is important to not just rely on exercise to improve weight and fitness levels. A healthy diet and lifestyle are also important to achieve the optimum level of wellbeing.