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The dark side of HIIT workouts (and it’s *not* injuries)

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Photo: Stocksy/Miquel Llonch

Filling your schedule with HIIT workouts is a great, efficient way to get fit, since they allow you to work up a major amount of sweat in a short amount of time. And while banking extra minutes back into your daily time savings account is a happiness-boosting bonus of the fitness modality, in order to stick with an exercise routine, it’s important to also enjoy it.

While HIIT is a great option for folks already in great shape, the majority of the population reportedly finds it unpleasant and, thus, unsustainable. Which is a problem, because if people view exercise as a task opposed to an enjoyable activity, they’re simply less likely to do it.

In a new study, researchers recruited inactive, out of shape participants—opposed to participants who were already well adjusted to an exercise routine—and found the subjected experienced greater pleasure doing longer workouts with moderately intense exercise than shorter, high-intensity workouts. (And, just to note, both workouts burned the same number of calories.)

“The message of ‘squeezing it in’ perpetuates the idea that exercise is a chore. We want to break down the association of exercise as punishment.”

“The message of ‘squeezing it in’ perpetuates the idea that exercise is a chore. We want to break down the association of exercise as punishment, as something unpleasant, something to tolerate or a bitter pill you have to swallow,” said study author Panteleimon Ekkekakis, PhD, in a press release. “For example, instead of viewing a bike ride as exercise, we want people to think of it as a chance to enjoy the outdoors or to spend time with family.”

So sure, HIIT workouts are effective, But if you’re still learning to love exercise, they might not be the best way to ease yourself in. Instead, spend your time doing something you’re excited about—but, by all means, if you genuinely enjoy the high-intensity, go for it—full speed ahead.

You can do these fun and effective outdoor workouts anywhere. And, FYI, here’s the color to wear for the most mood-boosting workouts.