The Importance of Low-Intensity Exercise

Each year, the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) conducts a massive survey of fitness professions in hopes of identifying the major industry trends for the coming year. Prior to 2014, high-intensity interval training (HIIT) had just barely been mentioned, not even making the list.

In 2014, however, HIIT shot up to the first position on the list. Since then, the training method has hovered along in the top three and had a massive influence on the fitness industry. In fact, as things are now, a workout is hardly considered effective if it doesn’t approach the realm of high-intensity.

But, is this really the way things should be done? Are workouts useless unless they leave you beat and sweating on the floor? Or, is there a place for low-intensity exercise?

The Thing About High-intensity

To understand the potential value of low-intensity workouts, we first need to be clear about the potential problems with high-intensity workouts.

The first – and primary – thing to remember is that these routines are…well, highly intense. Although people tend to dive into them as soon as they start exercising, high-intensity workouts are not meant for beginners. These routines also should not be performed by people who are recovering from an injury, have cardiovascular disease, or suffer from joint problems.

Very closely related to the above-information is the fact that performing nothing but high-intensity workouts every time you hit the gym denies your body the chance to recover – from both daily activities and other workouts. People tend to forget that nearly everything you do on a daily basis places some form of stress on your system, whether you’re aware of it or not. After you’ve already taken care of all of your other responsibilities, the added stress of an intense workout could put you at an increased risk of an overuse injury.

Of course, high-intensity workouts do have their place. By cranking up the difficulty, you can accomplish more in less time and effectively improve your power, endurance, and overall athletic performance.

Appreciating Easy Days

And, that’s essentially why low-intensity workouts are so useful. These routines give you a chance to remain active while not taxing your muscles and giving yourself time to fully recover.

Apart from recovery and injury prevention, though, there is still one more reason why you should incorporate low-intensity workouts into your larger routine: specificity.

This principle – that of specificity – is at the core of any fitness program and dictates that the workouts should be designed to accomplish a certain goal. High-intensity workouts, for all of their merits, simply do not improve endurance as effectively as low-intensity, long-duration workouts. For endurance athletes, then, easy days are a key part of any training schedule.

In reality, then, both high- and low-intensity workouts have their place in a well-designed routine. While high-intensity workouts can greatly enhance your fitness level in brief bouts, they can also stress your body and limit your recovery. Low-intensity workouts, though, give you the chance to fully recover and let you focus on improving your endurance.