HIIT Training vs Running: Which is Better for Fat Loss?

Find out which type of exercise is better for you.

When it comes to fitness and fat loss, two popular forms of exercise that often come up in discussions are HIIT (High-Intensity Interval Training) and running.

HIIT training involves short bursts of intense exercise followed by periods of rest or low-intensity activity. It is known for its efficiency and ability to elevate the heart rate quickly.

chandler smith How Many Days a Week Should You Workout?Source: Courtesy of CrossFit Inc

On the other hand, running is a cardiovascular exercise that involves continuous movement at a steady pace, varying from a leisurely jog to a fast sprint.

Importance of Fat Loss for Overall Health and Fitness

Fat loss plays a crucial role in maintaining overall health and fitness. Excess body fat has been linked to various health conditions such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and certain types of cancer.

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Additionally, carrying excess weight can put strain on joints and lead to mobility issues. Losing body fat can improve cardiovascular health, increase insulin sensitivity, enhance self-esteem, and boost energy levels.

Comparing HIIT training and running for fat loss

The purpose of this article is to compare HIIT training and running as methods for fat loss. While both forms of exercise can contribute to fat loss, they have distinct characteristics that may influence their effectiveness and suitability for individuals with different goals, preferences, and fitness levels.

ukraineSource: @peter.photo_cumbria

By exploring the benefits, mechanisms, and considerations of HIIT training and running, we aim to provide readers with valuable insights to help them make informed decisions about which approach may be more suitable for their fat loss goals.

Understanding HIIT Training

HIIT, or High-Intensity Interval Training, is a training method that alternates short bursts of intense exercise with periods of rest or low-intensity activity. The key principle of HIIT is to push your body to its maximum effort during the high-intensity intervals, followed by brief recovery periods. This pattern is repeated for a specific duration, typically ranging from 10 to 30 minutes, depending on fitness levels and goals.

Benefits of HIIT beyond fat loss

While HIIT is often lauded for its effectiveness in fat loss, its benefits extend beyond just shedding pounds. Some additional advantages of HIIT include:

  • Time efficiency: HIIT workouts are usually shorter in duration compared to traditional steady-state exercises, making it an excellent option for individuals with busy schedules.
  • Increased cardiovascular fitness: HIIT improves cardiovascular health by challenging and strengthening the heart and lungs. The intense bursts of exercise improve aerobic capacity and overall endurance.
  • Muscle preservation: HIIT preserves muscle mass while promoting fat loss. This is beneficial for maintaining a toned and lean physique.
  • Metabolic boost: HIIT stimulates the body’s metabolism, leading to an “afterburn” effect known as excess post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC). This means that even after the workout, your body continues to burn calories at an elevated rate for several hours.

How HIIT affects the body’s metabolism

HIIT has a profound impact on the body’s metabolism. During high-intensity intervals, the body relies on stored carbohydrates (glycogen) as the primary fuel source. However, the intense exercise creates an oxygen debt, which needs to be repaid during the recovery periods.

box jumpsSource: Photo courtesy of CrossFit Inc.

This repayment process occurs post-workout and requires energy, which comes from stored fat. As a result, HIIT promotes fat oxidation and increases the body’s metabolic rate, leading to enhanced fat loss.

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Examples of HIIT exercises and workout routines

There are numerous HIIT exercises and workout routines to choose from, depending on your fitness level and preferences. Some popular HIIT exercises include:

  • Burpees: A full-body exercise that involves squatting, jumping, and performing a push-up.
  • High knees: Running in place while lifting your knees as high as possible.
  • Jump squats: Squatting down and exploding upward into a jump, landing back into a squat position.
  • Mountain climbers: Assuming a push-up position and alternating bringing each knee towards the chest.

Sample HIIT workout routine:

Warm-up: 5 minutes of light cardio (e.g., jogging or cycling)

Workout: Perform each exercise for 30 seconds, with a 15-second rest between exercises. Complete three to five rounds.

  1. Jumping jacks
  2. Push-ups
  3. Squat jumps
  4. Plank hold
  5. High knees
  6. Bicycle crunches

Cool-down: 5 minutes of stretching exercises for major muscle groups.

Remember to adjust the intensity and duration of the intervals based on your fitness level, gradually increasing the intensity as you become more conditioned.

Exploring Running for Fat Loss

Running is a popular form of exercise that offers a wide range of benefits for overall health and fitness. Some of the key advantages include:

Cardiovascular health: Running is a highly effective aerobic exercise that strengthens the heart and improves cardiovascular fitness. It can lower blood pressure, reduce the risk of heart disease, and improve circulation.

Emma McQuaid on Assault RunnerSource: BC Creative / GOWOD

Weight management: Running is a calorie-burning activity that can aid in weight management and fat loss. Regular running helps create a calorie deficit, which is necessary for losing body fat.

Mental well-being: Running has a positive impact on mental health by reducing stress, improving mood, and promoting the release of endorphins, which are natural mood boosters.

Bone and muscle strength: Running is a weight-bearing exercise that helps build bone density and maintain muscle strength. It can reduce the risk of osteoporosis and enhance overall musculoskeletal health.

How running affects the body’s metabolism

Running has a direct impact on the body’s metabolism, both during and after the workout. During running, the body utilizes energy from carbohydrates and fat stores to fuel the activity. The intensity and duration of the run determine the ratio of carbohydrate to fat usage.

Additionally, running elevates the metabolic rate during and after the exercise session. The intensity and duration of the run play a role in the post-exercise calorie burn, known as EPOC (excess post-exercise oxygen consumption). This means that even after completing a run, the body continues to burn calories at an increased rate as it recovers and returns to its resting state.

Different types of running workouts and their impact on fat loss

Steady-State Running: This involves maintaining a steady pace throughout the run. While steady-state running burns calories and promotes fat loss, it may not be as effective in elevating the metabolic rate compared to more intense forms of running.

Interval Training: Incorporating intervals of high-intensity running alternated with periods of active recovery or rest can be highly effective for fat loss. Intervals challenge the body, increasing calorie burn both during and after the workout.

Source: Courtesy of CrossFit Inc.

Fartlek Training: Fartlek, meaning “speed play” in Swedish, involves alternating between faster and slower paces during a run. This type of training can be less structured than traditional intervals and offers a mix of aerobic and anaerobic benefits.

Hill Sprints: Running uphill at a high intensity engages more muscle groups and elevates heart rate, resulting in increased calorie burn. Hill sprints are an excellent way to incorporate high-intensity training into a running routine.

Tips for effective fat loss through running

Gradual progression: Start with shorter distances or lower intensities and gradually increase the duration, intensity, or frequency of your runs to avoid overexertion and reduce the risk of injury.

Consistency and frequency: Aim for regular running sessions to create a consistent calorie deficit and maintain metabolic engagement. Set a schedule that works for you and stick to it.

Mix up your workouts: Incorporate a variety of running workouts, including intervals, tempo runs, long runs, and hill sprints, to challenge your body and keep the workouts engaging.

Proper nutrition: Combine your running routine with a balanced, nutritious diet to support fat loss. Ensure you’re consuming enough calories to fuel your runs and focus on nutrient-dense foods to support overall health.

Strength training: Supplement your running routine with strength training exercises to build muscle, which can increase your basal metabolic rate and enhance fat loss.

Comparing HIIT Training and Running for Fat Loss

HIIT training is known for its ability to burn a significant number of calories in a short amount of time. The high-intensity intervals push the body to work at its maximum capacity, resulting in a substantial calorie burn during the workout. The intense nature of HIIT also leads to an elevated metabolic rate post-workout, promoting continued calorie burn even after the exercise session.

Moreover, HIIT has been shown to be effective in reducing body fat. The combination of intense effort and the metabolic impact of HIIT can lead to increased fat oxidation, contributing to fat loss over time.

Calorie burn and fat loss potential of running

Running is a dynamic cardiovascular exercise that can also contribute to calorie burn and fat loss. The number of calories burned during a run depends on various factors such as distance, speed, terrain, and individual characteristics like weight and fitness level. Generally, running burns a significant number of calories, especially when performed at higher intensities or for longer durations.

Running can promote fat loss by creating a calorie deficit, as it is an activity that engages multiple muscle groups and requires a substantial amount of energy. Consistent running, combined with proper nutrition, can contribute to overall fat loss and improved body composition.

Impact of exercise intensity on fat loss

Both HIIT training and running can be effective for fat loss, but the impact of exercise intensity is worth considering. HIIT training, with its intense bursts of activity and elevated heart rate, is particularly effective in stimulating fat loss during and after the workout. The high-intensity intervals challenge the body and require a significant amount of energy, leading to increased fat oxidation.

Running, on the other hand, offers a range of intensities depending on factors such as pace and terrain. Higher-intensity running, such as sprints or hill workouts, can result in a greater calorie burn and fat loss potential compared to lower-intensity steady-state running.

Considerations for choosing between HIIT training and running for fat loss

When choosing between HIIT training and running for fat loss, several factors should be considered:

  • Personal preferences: Some individuals may find HIIT training more enjoyable and engaging due to its variety of exercises and intense nature, while others may prefer the simplicity and meditative aspects of running. Consider what type of exercise you are more likely to stick with consistently.
  • Time commitment: HIIT workouts are generally shorter in duration compared to running sessions. If time is a limiting factor, HIIT training may be more suitable as it can provide a time-efficient workout.
  • Fitness level and injury risk: HIIT training can be demanding on the joints and muscles, especially for individuals who are new to exercise or have certain health conditions. Running can be more accessible and easier to modify based on fitness level or injury concerns.
  • Overall goals: Consider your broader fitness goals. If you are aiming to improve cardiovascular endurance, running may be a better choice. If your primary focus is on maximizing calorie burn and fat loss within a shorter timeframe, HIIT training may be more suitable.

It’s important to note that a combination of HIIT training and running can also be an effective approach. Integrating both modalities into your fitness routine can provide a well-rounded approach to fat loss and overall fitness.

Factors to Consider for Fat Loss Goals

When it comes to choosing between HIIT training and running for fat loss, considering individual preferences and enjoyment is crucial. Selecting an exercise modality that you genuinely enjoy and look forward to can significantly impact your consistency and adherence to the workout routine.

Source: Stevie D Photography

Some individuals may prefer the fast-paced, varied nature of HIIT training, while others may find the rhythmic motion and peacefulness of running more appealing. By choosing an activity you enjoy, you’re more likely to stick with it in the long term, leading to better results.

Time commitment and convenience

Consider the time commitment and convenience of each exercise modality. HIIT training is often known for its time efficiency, as workouts can be completed in a shorter duration due to the high intensity. This can be beneficial for individuals with busy schedules or limited workout time.

On the other hand, running may require more time, especially if you’re training for longer distances. Reflect on your schedule and determine which option fits best with your lifestyle and availability.

Impact on muscle preservation and strength

Fat loss goals should also consider the impact on muscle preservation and strength. HIIT training, with its emphasis on high-intensity intervals and resistance exercises, can help maintain and even build muscle mass while promoting fat loss.

This can contribute to a toned and defined physique. Running, although primarily a cardiovascular exercise, can also help maintain muscle mass, especially when combined with strength training exercises. Consider your desire to preserve or enhance muscle tone and strength when deciding between HIIT training and running.

Combining HIIT training and running for optimal fat loss

Rather than viewing HIIT training and running as mutually exclusive options, combining both modalities can be an effective approach for optimal fat loss.

By incorporating both into your fitness routine, you can benefit from the unique advantages of each.

HIIT training can provide intense bursts of calorie burn and fat loss, while running contributes to cardiovascular endurance and overall calorie expenditure. This combination can create a diverse and well-rounded workout routine, challenging your body in different ways and enhancing fat loss potential. Consider incorporating HIIT sessions on alternate days or incorporating short bursts of high-intensity intervals into your running workouts to maximize your fat loss efforts.

Ultimately, the best approach for fat loss depends on individual preferences, goals, and circumstances. Experimenting with different exercise modalities and finding a balance that works for you is key.

It’s also important to consult with a healthcare professional or fitness expert for personalized guidance and support tailored to your specific needs.


Both HIIT training and running offer unique benefits and considerations for fat loss. HIIT training is known for its time efficiency, high-calorie burn, and potential for fat loss.

It also promotes cardiovascular health, muscle preservation, and metabolic benefits. Running, on the other hand, is a versatile exercise that promotes cardiovascular fitness, burns calories, and can contribute to fat loss.

It offers the opportunity to engage in outdoor activities and enjoy the meditative aspects of running. Considering factors such as personal preferences, time commitment, impact on muscle preservation, and overall goals can help determine the most suitable exercise modality for fat loss.

Personal factors to consider when choosing an exercise modality

When choosing between HIIT training and running for fat loss, it’s important to consider personal factors such as individual preferences, enjoyment, time commitment, convenience, impact on muscle preservation, and strength.

By aligning the exercise modality with personal preferences and lifestyle, individuals are more likely to adhere to their chosen workout routine and achieve their fat loss goals successfully.

Emphasizing the importance of consistency and proper nutrition for fat loss

Regardless of the exercise modality chosen, consistency is key for achieving fat loss goals. Regular participation in HIIT training or running, coupled with a balanced and nutritious diet, creates a calorie deficit necessary for fat loss. Consistency in exercise and healthy eating habits is crucial for long-term success.

Before starting any exercise program, particularly if you have underlying health conditions or are new to exercise, it’s important to consult with a healthcare professional or fitness expert. They can provide personalized guidance, tailor workout plans to individual needs, and ensure safety and effectiveness in achieving fat loss goals.

In conclusion, both HIIT training and running have their merits when it comes to fat loss. Consider personal preferences, time commitment, impact on muscle preservation, and overall goals to determine which exercise modality aligns best with your needs. Remember that consistency, proper nutrition, and seeking professional guidance are key components of any successful fat loss journey. Stay committed, listen to your body, and enjoy the process of achieving your health and fitness goals.

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