Low intensity vs high intensity exercise -Lets Compare

Most people, both young and old, do not take the time or effort to consider how their workouts will affect them. Exercising without a plan will not bring you the results you should achieve. Lets look at the differences between low intensity vs high intensity exercise.


I can not emphasize how important it is to take the time to consider the full details of the actual workout you are performing and your progression over time.

One of the critical considerations in profiling and designing an excellent exercise program is considering intensity levels.

Below we are going to look at the differences between Low intensity and high-intensity exercise. This will allow us to decide which direction to start your journey.

Please do not worry if you feel you are still unsure – I mix and match each type but predominantly work in the high-intensity range.

Do not fret I started as a beginner working out slow and steady. Remember the tortoise and the hare – high intensity equals more rewards yet more risk of injury.

Injured = No exercise

Those new to exercising should understand how intensity can affect their goals and help them to achieve them. Both high and low-intensity workout exercise have many advantages. These all depends on what your fitness goals are and your level of fitness.

By comparing low intensity vs high intensity exercise, and maybe you will be able to determine which you should focus your fitness program around.


High Intensity

This type of exercise is the most talked-about type of exercising these days. The fitness community appreciates the fact that it gives significantly faster results in considerably less time.

We are all squeezed for time nowadays, and many would prefer to get their workout completed and move on to their many other responsibilities.

How is a high intensity workout more efficient ?

High intensity is pretty self-explanatory. You will be exercising faster, with more weight, or both during a high-intensity workout compared to low-intensity exercise so that you will be burning more calories in less time.

This increase in activity burns more calories because you reach about 75% of your maximum heart rate as opposed to only 50% during low-intensity workouts.

Your metabolism will be increased, allowing your body to continue to burn more calories after completing the chosen activity. As a bonus, you will also burn more calories from fat per minute than you would doing a low-intensity exercise.

Why choose high intensity ?

I can see why people would choose high-intensity workouts, and I am one of them. If your goal is to gain strength, burn fat, and do it more efficiently, this is the right choice. Unfortunately, many people cannot take advantage of high-intensity workouts due to the high impact it places upon the body.

It should also be clarified that high-intensity exercises should not be overdone as it could be very taxing on the body and mind and cause extreme fatigue.

Some times this fatigue can last for a few days afterwards. If you intend to follow a high-intensity routine as a beginner, please talk to your doctor before you start and listen to your body during and after the workout, there is no point causing your self an injury.


Examples of high-intensity workouts are sprinting, HITT, Crossfit, Kettlebells, interval training with body weight exercises, and plyometrics. All are very efficient uses of your time and energy, but please, if you are unsure, start out with a beginner’s routine and progress from here.

Low intensity

Low-intensity workouts are more traditional but don’t deliver as efficient results as high-intensity. That’s not to say that low-intensity exercises are a waste of time. Many people enjoy the benefits a low-intensity workout gives them and have enough time to dedicate to it. Some find that a low-intensity exercise is much more stress-relieving, for instance, a long run is a great way to clear the mind as you concentrate on the world around you equally a light yoga session is an ideal way to release the stresses of the day or from the previous day’s high-intensity workout.

Extra time ?

Although it can take more time to get the same results, this all depends upon your goals, Youngsters are drawn toward a high impact lifestyle, but you can still burn fat and improve your fitness with low-intensity workouts. It is, in fact, the most sensible workout in some instances.

The elderly or every young are usually not suited to high-intensity high impact workouts, but that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be able to work out at a lower intensity. Low-intensity exercises allow them to stay fit and healthy with a lower risk of injury. What about those who already have injuries? They can’t perform a high-intensity workout either. Again, low-intensity exercises are right for them.

Fitness professionals who are trying to lose every last inch of fat without losing any muscle are a unique group because they are eating a stringent low-calorie diet and wouldn’t want to do high-intensity workouts as this could deplete their muscle mass. Due to these concerns, they perform low-intensity exercises to get rid of fat without losing precious muscle they have worked to achieve.


Examples of low-intensity workouts are: jogging, cycling, elliptical machines (without intervals) water aerobics, walking, lightweight training or yoga.


So, lets recap high intensity or low intensity, where shall we start?

Most would choose the high-intensity workouts for better or faster results.

Understandably some would say that low intensity is best for them. Some may start with a low intensity and find they progress overtime adding more intensity as they progress.

Progression is the key,no matter where you feel initially comfortable. Your body will adapt very quickly. Have fun, stay safe, and enjoy the ride.

Even if high intensity is your workout of choice, there will be days when you don’t feel up to working out. However remember getting in any exercise is better than nothing.

Low-intensity workouts will come in handy when you are feeling in this state of mind .If you don’t fancy a full-blown high impact workouts and have time give then a go.

You should now understand some differences between low intensity vs high intensity exercise and know when to use each.

Whether you choose high intensity or low-intensity workouts, consistency is vital. Any workout program that you follow regularly will serve you in promoting improved health and effective weight management.

What are your thoughts ? do you prefer a low intensity or high intensity workout ? Let us know below

Author Profile

Owner and author at shortandintense.com , 25 years as a quality and health and safety professional with an in-depth knowledge of functional and corrective exercises. IHoS registered,lead auditor, personal trainer and human movement specialist.

10 thoughts on “Low intensity vs high intensity exercise -Lets Compare”

  1. Hi, Brian.
    Thanks for giving us a comparison between low intensity and high-intensity exercises. You said it correct – we must listen to our bodies. It is always better to be consistent rather than doing high-intensity workouts for a day with the rest of one week due to injury. Being at the age of 50, I always go for low-intensity exercises.
    Warm Regards,
    Gaurav Gaur

    • You are correct – the body always knows but I have found that the mind can also trick the body into pretending its worse than it  actually is – Learning when your mind says stop yet the body is able to give more is the key to high intensity 

  2. Great post on low-intensity vs. high-intensity workouts. When it comes to exercise it’s good to know which routines are good for which areas, and it’s important no to overdo it. It’s good to know the exact figure 75% of maximum heart rate is reached during high-intensity workouts. This puts it in perspective for those who may have heart concerns or those who are just getting back into working out. Also, it’s good to know which individuals are right for low-intensity workouts, and it’s good to know that they are not a waste of time. I know some people who are always considering which workouts to choose and this post will definitely help them in making a decision, so I’ll pass it along and bookmark your site. Great post and keep up the good work!

    • Thanks for the comment Pentrental – Please do pass this information along and if they require  any additional assistance please tell them to contact me either in my comments on via email 

  3. You bring up an excellent question, high intensity or low? I, for one, enjoy jogging, but I always thought that it to be a high-intensity workout. But looking back to the fact that I never would lose weight while actively jogging, this makes complete sense to me now.
    I love to do yoga and thought that I would try Kundalini Yoga. Well, I recall the instructor mentioning that Kundalini Yoga was much more potent as an exercise because of how we were breathing. The trick is to breathe very quickly. Could this also be why high-intensity workouts burn more calories, is because of the frequency of breathing?

    I was also wondering if it would be a good idea to switch up and do high intensity every other day, or do you suggest a different schedule?

    • Kundalini Yoga – I will have to look it up – Jogging /Running all depends upon how you are breathing and heart rate ( same as the yoga I guess). I personally try to aim for a day on day off routine – Some people suggest 3 days on 1 day off – Listen to your body and it will let you know 

  4. Hi there 

    Excellent article l really love the reading!

    If I had to choose between low-intensity or high intensity, I would select lower intensity exercises. low-intensity exercises help me be consistent, and that’s what matters the most.  I have tried many high-intensity workouts in the past, and after a short time, I stopped because it was too difficult for me to continue. However, today, I walk a lot, and I do some yoga exercises every day, and it really makes me feel great. What’s the point of doing high-intensity exercises if you are not going to be consistent:) 

    Thank you for this useful post

    • You are correct Daniella – Staying consistent is very important – I try to aim for 3 days a week minimum with a day off between and the weekend is sports with the children 

  5. Hi Brian

    That is an interesting article on the benefits of following a low intensity exercise regime and a high intensity exercise regime. I feel that the answer lies of how fit you want to get and what your body is capable of doing. High intensity may be more suitable if you are looking to be fitter than other people, or for those who take part in active sports. For most people this seems impractical due to age, illness or even lack of willpower. I really appreciate your concise explanation in the difference between the two. I do not believe in doing things in high intensity, as I believe steady exercise is much more achievable. You will not be discouraged as well.

    Thank you


    • Thanks again Antonio – you hit the nail on the head ” for most people it seems impractical ” but a steady mix of the two works for a lot of people like me. I work long hours and yet still wish to pursue sporting activities on the weekends – High intensity gives me the fitness I need in less time.  All the best 


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