High intensity interval training (HIIT) continues to grow in popularity, and low intensity steady state (LISS aka “cardio”) tends to get snubbed. We know that scientifically, HIIT is more effective and efficient to reach your FitGoals, but what about your mental health goals? I believe that there is value in both types of workouts for your mental sanity and clarity.
HIIT is shorter in length and, of course, higher intensity, It can require full-body movements, plyometrics, and agility drills. It requires you to be fully present — you must focus only on the exercises in front of you or else you might injure yourself (at best, be clumsy and trip!).
It is a nice relief to ignore your phone, to-do lists, and emails for the duration to focus on strengthening yourself. However, it can also strengthen your mind. Some studies suggest that HIIT can improve memory, attention, and processing speed. Think about it: HIIT requires you to count and be very specific with your movements. If you’re taking a class, I personally love to mix up numbers in a circuit. I’ll incorporate ladders, such as go through a set of exercises 5 reps each, then 6 reps each, then 7 reps, and so forth. Like doing a puzzle, it keeps your mind agile and fresh.
I still don’t recommend elliptical for anyone, but longer bouts of cardio like walking, running, swimming, and cycling are great for you if done with proper safety and form. You can greatly improve your muscular endurance, and if you love racing, then you’re going to train for your races with increasing distances and durations. In addition to the physical benefits, it’s also great for your mind to think.
When else do you allow yourself the liberty to have an empty mind and just think? The rest of the day, you unfortunately may be zoned out on your phone or computer screen. I love taking walks or runs to break up my work day and spend time being creative. You can’t imagine innovating, world-changing ideas if you’re sitting in front of a screen. If you don’t like to sit and meditate (don’t blame ya), LISS can be an opportunity for you to explore your mind. Listen to music, podcasts, or just the sound of Lake Michigan next to you, LISS is an amazing opportunity to relax and feel inspired.
I’m personally ready for the rain to stop so I can run outside again and completely clear my mind! Remember, a healthy body is nothing without a healthy mind.
++ Mary K