High-Intensity Interval Training vs. Steady State Cardio

High-Intensity Interval Training vs. Steady State Cardio


High-Intensity Interval Training vs. Steady State Cardio

Cardio, or cardiovascular exercise, is a critical part of staying healthy and fit. Not only does it act as a lifeline for getting your body in shape by being the best way to burn the most calories at one time, but it also strengthens your vital organs like the heart and lungs. To top it all off, it is a fat blaster and a muscle strengthener. Cardio, we love to hate it, but what’s the most effective method?

There are no set rules when it comes to cardio, no secret formula. It is just whatever gets you moving and gets your heart rate up. When the fitness industry started booming, cardio was known as the best way to get in shape, and everyone was hitting the treadmill or the pavement, jogging, running, biking. Then along came high-intensity interval training or HIIT, and steady-state had to share the stage. Today we are going to talk about these two popular cardio practices, pros and cons, and which one you should do during your next workout.

Steady-state cardio is what you typically think of when you think of cardio. It’s a jog on the treadmill, a walk outside, a 10-mile bike ride. This is a longer, moderate-intensity workout that uses repetitive motions for an extended period of time to get your heart rate up. 

Some benefits to this traditional method include less stress on your body overall, increased endurance, the increase of slow-twitch muscle fibers, and more calories burned at one time. Some of the downsides to making steady-state your regular method of cardio include risk of injury from overuse as you’re repeating the same motions over a long period of time. People also often experience weight loss plateaus, as their body gets used to the exercise and the progress slows or even stops. Not to mention a steady-state requires longer periods of time and can be quite boring. That’s why many people have been turning to steady-state’s fun alternative.

High-intensity Interval training is exactly what it sounds like. It is a more intense workout that takes place in intervals with short rests in between. It is often shorter than other forms of cardio, but hits 80-95% of your max heart rate zone, giving you an effective cardio workout while strengthening. The workout keeps your heart rate up through the whole session, while also incorporating strength training. HIIT can be anything from, jump squats, burpees or sprints on the treadmill. It’s the best of both worlds in the worst way. 

Some benefits of HIIT workouts are higher levels of growth hormone, no decrease in metabolism (like with steady-state), and a fat-blasting workout, improved overall performance, and fitness over time, improved insulin sensitivity, and strength targeting. HIIT beats the dreaded plateau by keeping your body on its toes and forcing it to adapt, training in different ways each time. On top of all that, they are often much more entertaining workouts then traditional steady-state. Some cons include a higher risk of injury and slower recovery time. This system isn’t ideal for beginners as it tends to be very challenging. It also can lead to burnout, as it is a very intense form of exercise, so don’t overdo the HIIT. 

So which one is better? 

Although it’s not one size fits all, we recommend a mix of the two. Different individuals prefer, enjoy, and can handle different things. Overall, though, the optimal workout is HIIT. It gets you the most bang for your buck. Not only are you getting in your cardio, but you are also strengthening your whole body. Steady-state is great in terms of improving general fitness and is good if you’re just looking to stay in shape. For those trying to decrease fat and build lean muscle mass, however, HIIT is the way to go. You burn more calories per unit of time, and you burn more calories post-exercise due to body restoration. 

For an entertaining, killer workout that will better not only for your health but your body composition, HIIT is the better cardio workout. 



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