With all the hype surrounding HIIT training, steady state cardio has taken a back seat in the fitness industry.
Studies show HIIT (high intensity interval training) is more effective for fat loss than steady state cardio. The workouts are more intense, torching calories in a short amount of time, but incorporating steady state training into your routine can have many benefits.
Steady state cardio helps build endurance, is great for beginners and can give your body time to recover between higher intensity workouts. Incorporating both into your weekly routine can challenge your muscles in different ways and help prevent burnout.
Steady state cardio is an aerobic workout where the effort remains steady rather than varying levels of intensity. This type of training involves keeping your heart rate at a moderate level that you can sustain for a longer period. This is how we build endurance. A good example of this is a 60-minute jog as opposed to running hills or including all-out sprints.
Building endurance is so important for those at every fitness level because it helps with heart health and helps us push through our workouts. For those training to run a race, or a triathlon for instance, endurance is critical. No amount of 30-minute HIIT sessions will prepare your body to run 10-plus miles. It is for this reason training programs for marathons and half marathons include longer runs coupled with shorter, speedier ones.
Steady state training is great for beginners or those recovering from injury. The high intensity and higher impact exercises in interval training are not for everyone, but there are other things you can do. Any cardio exercise that you enjoy, such as going for a walk, riding a bike, using the rowing machine or climbing the Stairmaster, will work. The key is to go at a moderate pace, keeping your heart rate relatively low. You should be able to have a conversation. Those going from a sedentary lifestyle will find it much easier to incorporate lower intensity exercises into a daily routine and will be more likely stick with it.
Our bodies need time to rest between workouts. If a complete day of inactivity is unappealing to you, steady state cardio sessions in between tougher HIIT drills can give your body some time to recover.
No matter what your goal, combining HIIT and steady state workouts is the best way to improve your fitness. While HIIT is great for burning fat in quick sessions, it will not build endurance. Too much of either workout can lead to overuse injuries and overall fatigue.
Angela Fulgieri is a Program Director for the Tampa Metropolitan YMCA. Write her at firstname.lastname@example.org.