High-intensity Workouts Are Brutal. They’re Even Worse If You’re Overweight.

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In the last few years, high-intensity interval training has really started to come on strong. HIIT, as it’s known, seemingly offered people an efficient way to get your cardio without the long, tedious treadmill session: Just a few minutes of all-out effort mixed in with some moderate minutes and you’re done—no plodding for an hour. Plus, studies have shown that HIIT can help you feel good, and that it’s probably more effective than continuous exercises.

But recent research from Iowa State University has added a caveat to all the intense-cardio kudos: As you may have already learned firsthand, doing HIIT kinda sucks.

When you’re pedaling/running/rowing/jumping as hard as possible (or at least close to it), that means your workout will be fairly unpleasant. And while a certain breed of Type-A masochists enjoy CrossFitting themselves to a pulp every morning, that same workout intensity can inevitably propel regular, I-just-wanna-lose-5lbs folks away from exercising at all.

In the Iowa State study, researchers asked inactive, obese people to do either a HIIT routine or moderate, continuous exercise on a recumbent stationary cycle, and compared how often people felt “positive emotions” during their workouts. Despite all that efficiency of HIIT, the researchers found that the subjects preferred the moderate routine.

“If you can take an hour of exercise and squeeze it into one minute, there’s a price to pay,” said study co-author Panteleimon Ekkekakis, Ph.D., a professor of kinesiology at Iowa State University. “The price is intensity. It’s undeniable that the experience will be unpleasant.” He noted that “the people who can maintain this type of training are a small minority. Most people are overweight, sedentary, and not getting enough activity. The only objective that makes sense is to adopt a type and amount of exercise that will help you incorporate exercise into your daily life so you can be active for the rest of your life.”

So hey, by all means: Jump feet-first into our 10 favorite HIIT workouts to get shredded for summer. But if you’re a grizzly-size guy who needs to whittle down that waistline before you go cartwheeling all over the beach, maybe start with our Big Man Plan first.

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