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Zone 2 vs HIIT exercise

Making aerobic exercise training a part of your longevity lifestyle is vital for cardiovascular health.  Gotta get the blood flowing (M is for Move, after all!),

For maximum impact, you want to incorporate BOTH longer periods of low-intensity training (aka “Zone 2 training”) as well as shorter periods of high-intensity training (ex: High Intensity Interval Training, HIIT) several times a week. 

It’s the difference between an hour hike in nature and ten-minute jump-roping sweat-a-thon.  They both have their place but for different reasons. 

Zone 2 Training (60-70% of your maximum heart rate)  Sustained effort at a moderate pace.  You’ll be in a comfortable rhythm, and while your heart rate is elevated, you can still carry on a full conversation without gasping for air.

  • Heart & CV Benefits: Often referred to as the “aerobic zone,” it primarily uses fat as its energy source. This type of training strengthens the heart muscle, increases capillary density in muscles, and boosts mitochondrial production, enhancing your body’s ability to use oxygen efficiently.
  • Pros:
    • Builds a strong cardiovascular foundation.
    • Burns fat effectively.
    • Lower risk of injury due to moderate intensity.
  • Cons:
    • Workouts tend to be longer.
    • It may be perceived as monotonous for those who prefer high-intensity workouts.

HIIT (High-Intensity Interval Training):  Short intervals of high-intensity training, where you’re heart rate is in Zone 4 (80-90% of max) and Zone 5 (90-100% of max) for short periods of time and then comes back down the lower zones for recovery.  

  • Heart & CV Benefits: HIIT involves short bursts of intense exercise followed by rest or low-intensity periods. It increases your heart’s capacity for work, improves arterial flexibility, and can lead to higher calorie burn in a shorter time due to the afterburn effect (post-exercise oxygen consumption).
  • Pros:
    • Shorter workouts. A good HIIT workout may only take 10 minutes. 
    • Boosts metabolism for hours post-workout.
    • It can lead to improvements in cardiovascular fitness in a shorter time frame.
  • Cons:
    • There is a higher risk of injury due to the intensity.
    • It may not be suitable for beginners or those with certain health conditions.
    • Requires more recovery time between sessions.

Sample Workouts:

Zone 2 Workout:  Ex:  Cycling, walking, rowing

  1. Warm-up: 10 minutes at 50% of your max heart rate (Zone 1). 
  2. Main Set: 45 minutes at 60-70% of your max heart rate (Zone 2). 
  3. Cool Down: 10 minutes at 50% of your max heart rate (Zone 1). 

HIIT Workout:  Ex: Cycling, jogging, jump-roping

  1. Warm-up: 5 minutes at 50% of your max heart rate.
  2. Main Set: 8 rounds of:
    • 30 seconds at 85-95% of your max heart rate (Zone 4,5).
    • 90 seconds at 50-60% of your max heart rate (Zone 1).
  3. Cool Down: 5 minutes at 50% of your max heart rate.

In conclusion, both Zone 2 and HIIT offer fantastic cardiovascular benefits. Your choice depends on your fitness goals, current health status, and personal preferences. Always consult with a fitness professional or healthcare provider before starting a new exercise regimen.  

If possible, add both Zone 2 and HIIT training to your weekly workout schedule.  Your heart will thank you!

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