Cardio: HIIT or Steady-State?


We’ve been exploring nutrition quite a bit, so let’s change gears and have look at fitness, namely cardio. For a lot of people cardio is their go-to for workouts; weather permitting we see hikers, joggers, people on roller-blades and cyclists. It’s impressive to see people get out there and workout, I always find it gives me the extra kick in the butt to get out there myself. For gym goers we see people on treadmills, eliptical machines, stationary bikes and countless aerobics classes. For those who workout at home, there are fully equipped at-home gyms and stacks fitness DVDs (I have quite the collection myself).

Finding a cardio workout that is both comfortable for you and effective can be a bit challenging. Should you jog or sprint? Kickboxing or zumba? Eliptical or stationary bike? There’s also the question of how long your cardio workout should last and how often you should actually do cardio each week. A good starting point is by looking at two types of cardio: HIIT and Steady-State.

HIIT, which stands for high intensity interval training, consists of short bursts of intense exercise followed by a subsequent bout of a lower intense exercise. A good example is sprint intervals where for one minute you jog at a comfortable pace and follow that with one minute of all out sprinting as fast as you can, and repeating for around 20 minutes. The great thing about HIIT is that you don’t have to do it for very long, these workouts typically last 20-30 minutes, so it’s the ideal option if you’re crunched for time. Also HIIT has been shown to increase your capacity to burn more calories at rest throughout the day following your workout, which is amazing. So go ahead and try a spinning class or a new workout DVD (my favorite is Cardio Kickboxing from Jillian Michaels, it’s only 20 minutes and it’s awesome!).

Another type of cardio is steady-state which is essentially performing the exercise at a consistent pace throughout the entire workout. A good example is jogging on a treadmill at the same speed for 45 minutes. This type of cardio is also great; it burns tons of calories and it’s great for your ticker. However, it doesn’t have the same “afterburn” effect for calories as HIIT does, so you don’t burn as much calories at rest following your workout. Now, before you completely overhaul your workouts and start sprinting instead of jogging, keep in mind that it’s best to mix up your exercises each day to keep your body guessing and to also give you adequate time to recover from your workouts as well. It’s a good idea to include a bit of both in your cardio each week, maybe 3 days HIIT and 2 days steady-state, be sure to alternate your HIIT days with steady-state days. These workouts are hard on the body so it’s important to not do the same exact workout at the same exact pace each day; one day do HIIT and the next do steady-state.

If you are new to fitness or unfamiliar with cardio then give a bunch of different workouts a try to see what you’re most comfortable with and what challenges you the most. If you have a gym membership then go ahead and try all the cardio machines, try a new machine every day, and be sure to sign up for some aerobics classes as well, zumba is my personal preference. If you don’t have a gym membership then try some DVDs; when I was younger I would do Richard Simmons Sweating to the Oldies which was super fun and it introduced me to fitness, in college I was all about Tae-Bo, it helped me drop 25 pounds and now I rely on Jillian Michaels for my cardio needs, her workouts are amazing and have helped me take fitness to the next level. I also suggest that you give outdoor workouts a try, if the weather’s nice then get out there, it does wonders for your mood and energy to be outside. I love going for a run first thing in the morning, just looking around as a go along and taking it all in is very refreshing. You can also look at joining a local running, walking or cycling group, these are usually free and it’s a great way to hang out with others while working out.

Cardio is a very effective method of exercise, it’s what will give you that nice lean look and it’s great for fat loss. There so many different workouts available, the possibilities really are endless so give them a try and stick with them for a few weeks to really see the changes in your body. Your workouts should be challenging, that’s how you effect change in yourself so don’t give up. Be sure to consult your healthcare provider before starting any new fitness program. Remember that if you can’t go all out right off the bat that it’s okay you just need to build yourself up gradually to increase your endurance and strength. Keep at it each day and before you know it you’ll be in better shape than ever!

Start It, Finish It


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