Does HIIT Cardio Burn More Calories? (4 min read)

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Does HIIT Cardio Burn More Calories? (4 min read)

I've gotten a few questions this week on HIIT (High-Intensity Interval Training) benefits. The main question was, "Does HIIT burn more calories than doing lower intensity cardio for longer?"



If you're interested in HIIT, you're probably hoping to burn more calories in less time. You're busy, and you need the most efficient way to get your cardio in possible. In this blog, you're going to learn:


  • What HIIT is
  • Does HIIT burn more calories vs. steady-state
  • How to properly build a HIIT cardio routine



So what is HIIT?

HIIT has become a popular method for both strength training and cardio over the last few years. HIIT is probably what you think it is. It's brief periods of high-intensity exercise, followed by periods of low-intensity to recover. There are various ways to do HIIT, but all are measured by work to rest ratio. For example, you might do 1 minute "on" of exercise at a 90% effort followed by 2 minutes "off" working at 50% effort.



What are the benefits of HIIT vs. Steady-State?

There are many benefits to both HIIT and Steady State (low-intensity for longer duration). For this blog, we'll focus on calorie burn. 


To answer the original question, HIIT does burn more calories and in less time, BUT ONLY if your recovery periods don't go too long. Let me give you an example.



A 154-pound adult walking at 3 mph for 60 minutes will burn roughly 235 calories.



That same 154-pound adult running 8 mph for 20 minutes will burn roughly 320 calories. 



That's 27% more calories in 70% less time! So let's apply this to HIIT.



If we take this example and have our adult, we'll call her Lindsay, run at 8 mph for 1 minute, and then walk at a slow pace for 1 minute 20x she would have worked out for only 40 minutes and burned WAY more calories than just doing the long walk. In this case, she would burn more calories in less time. 



However, if she took a 3-minute rest between each 8 mph run, her workout would take 80 minutes. That's much longer and not many more calories. So yes, HIIT can burn more calories, but you need to watch your rest time closely to ensure that it does.



How to incorporate HIIT for cardio

To create a HIIT program, we're going to consider 3 factors


  1. Work to rest ratio - i.e., Intensity of the intervals
  2. Duration - i.e., How many rounds you'll do 
  3. Frequency - i.e., How often you'll do HIIT Cardio


Work to Rest Ratio

Put yourself in one of these 3 cardio categories to figure out how intense to make your intervals:


  • Good Condition = 1 min high-intensity (90%), 1 minute low-intensity (50%)
  • Average Condition = 1 min high-intensity, 2 minutes low-intensity
  • Poor Condition = 30 seconds high-intensity, 2 minutes low-intensity



Now that you know what intensity you'll be doing, it's time to determine how long you'll do intervals. Since the idea here is to keep your time commitment down, we'll use shorter times, but you can certainly do more.


  • Good Condition = 20 rounds (40 minutes)
  • Average Condition = 15 rounds (45 minutes)
  • Poor Condition = 10 rounds (25 minutes)



How often you train depends on your current fitness and recovery habits. If you're very fit and have exceptional recovery habits, you could train almost every day(in theory). If you're in poorer condition with poor habits, you'll need more time to recover. Here are some basic guidelines:


  • Good Condition/Recovery = 0-1 days between sessions
  • Average Condition = 1-2 days between sessions
  • Poor Condition = 2-3 days between sessions



Putting It All Together

Let's say that Lindsay is in good condition; her cardio interval plan might look something like this:


Lindsay would run as fast as she could for 1 minute; then she would walk for 1 minute. She would do this 20x every other day.


  • Monday - 1 min on:1 min off x 20
  • Tuesday - Rest/Recover
  • Wednesday - 1 min on:1 min off x 20
  • Continue this pattern




If adding intervals to your cardio regimen is something you've been thinking about doing now, you know what to do. Feel free to mix and match with your work to rest, duration, and frequency. You can put yourself in one category under duration and another for frequency to customize the plan to your needs. 



If you're in Southlake, Grapevine, or Colleyville, there are tons of great parks to do this outside, but of course, we love seeing you here in the gym.


No matter where you decide to do your intervals, make sure you stick to the guidelines above, and I promise you'll get a great workout!



Give it a try and comment below if you have any questions.



As always, don't forget to comment and share this post if you found it useful, and let me know what you'd like to learn about in the future.



Until next time!

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