HIIT versus Aerobics?


I have been teaching group fitness since 1998 and back then the cardio component of group exercise classes was aerobic dance. Teacher's used fitness music that kept the proper tempo to help people to burn calories. The movements could be basic or advanced depending on the experience of the class. Nowadays, as I meet and train the next generation of fitness instructors, 90% of them only want to teach high intensity interval training or HIIT, where a timer is used to pace the class. Gone are the days where a teacher was responsible for keeping everyone on the beat of the music, moving in the same direction, at exactly the same time, on the proper foot.


Teaching the 'old' way is much harder on the teacher so I certainly understand the appeal of timed workouts. I started teaching Tabata classes (intervals that last 20 seconds with 10 seconds of rest, completed over 8 rounds to a timer) about 3 years ago because I wanted to see what the fuss was about. I love it but I feel that high intensity interval training should not be the only cardiovascular exercise that you do.


The truth is HIIT falls short on helping you to improve your endurance. HIIT trains your body to be able to go all out, at maximal effort for short periods of time. In life there are times when we need to move fast and with power, to play our sports or stop our child from running into traffic, but we also need to train for endurance which is important for daily living on many levels.


Think of it this way. HIIT will help you to climb steep hills or lots of stairs with ease on your long distance walks/jogs with your friends. You won't be out of breath by the time you make it to the top and if you are, you will recover more easily whereas traditional aerobics will help you to go for longer walks/jogs in general without growing tired. Both are very important and my concern is that if students are only engaging in high intenstiy workouts, they are missing out on the very practical aspect of building endurance through exercise, which helps us to live our lives with ease.


I have always told my readers and my students that the secret to success when it comes to fitness training is variety. Too many high impact jumping jacks, burpees and squat jumps will have a detrimental effect on your knees and hips down the road. If this is your preferred workout style, I recommend that you switch up the exercises often so that you do not cause injuries. When I teach Tabata, I keep track of the exercises and change them weekly so that my students can reap the benefits of this workout but not overdo certain joint actions.


Zumba is fundamentally aerobics without the same focus on 32 count phrasing and is a great way to build up your cardiovascular endurance. The aerobics that I teach is not quite as dancy as Zumba however and therefore can appeal to a broader audience.


The only constant is change. Fitness trends come and go and hopefully there will be a resurgence of traditional aerobic dance at some point but until then, I go with the flow and do my best to answer the needs of my students with a smile.


See you soon.




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