The Pandemic has changed many things including the way we exercise. There are no more packed gyms or crowded yoga studios. For now, we are not doing Barry’s Bootcamp, Orange Theory, and the SoulCycle in a small room with 20 other people. Our workouts have moved outside or changed completely. We have bought Peloton bikes, treadmills and home gym equipment. We have tried new types of workouts. As we start the new year, we were curious to see what research has to say about HIIT (High-Intensity Interval Training) workouts compared to lower intensity exercise.
Of course everyone has their own preferences when it comes to working out, and by no means are we here to tell you to change them. Instead, we want to share the biological differences of men and women that might provide insight to what kind of workout is optimal for you. Clichés around exercise suggest that cardio burns fat – and it does! But if a woman prefers yoga or barre over a 6 mile run, why should she push herself to discomfort? The short answer – she shouldn’t. There are plenty of benefits to lower-intensity exercise, and recent research even shows that for women, this kind of exercise might just be better for fat-burning than HIIT.
Let us break it down for you. Men and women respond differently to exercise because of something called “muscle fiber type.” Two kinds of muscle fibers exist: Type 1 and Type 2. Males have a higher percentage of Type 2 fiber, which makes them built for shorter, more explosive activity. Women tend to have more type 1 fibers, which are suited for lengthier, lower-intensity activity. The Type 1 fibers possessed by women allow us to convert fat into energy quicker, and therefore increase the amount of time we are able to sweat. This higher endurance means that in order to optimize fitness levels and boost our metabolisms, we need to exercise at a lower-intensity for longer periods.
This is not to say that men should stick to HIIT and women should focus on endurance training – endurance training is beneficial for all genders. On the physical side, it improves balance and coordination, cardiovascular health, bone density, and stimulates muscle growth. When it comes to mental health, endurance-focused exercise allows the opportunity to clear your head, improve self-image, and regulate sleep. On the flip side, HIIT has a laundry list of benefits including extended after burn and improved oxygen consumption.
Long or short, exhausting or relaxing, exercise is instrumental to living a healthy life. We know everyone has different abilities, but all kinds of exercise can be rewarding, therapeutic, and even essential. There is no shame in longer, more leisurely forms of exercise – in fact, research shows this kind might be better for us! Do whatever you can to move – go for a walk, lift two-pound weights, throw on a 5-minute YouTube video, run a marathon. There are endless ways to exercise (here are 100 suggestions!) and the choice is yours, but anything is better than nothing.
by Brooke Kennerson