Going Steady: 5 Reasons To Do Steady-State Cardio
Name: Shannon Clark
Education: Bachelor's in Exercise Science and Sport Performance from the University of Alberta in Edmonton, Certified Personal Trainer
If you've done any recent reading on cardio training, you've likely come to one solid conclusion: To shed pounds fast, high-intensity interval training (HIIT) is freaking awesome.
Fast-paced bursts of all-out cardio punctuated by short rest intervals have been touted as key for fat loss, and for good reason. HIIT burns more calories than low-intensity cardio per session. It also places greater recovery demands on your body, which causes you to burn more calories after training than you would in a standard hour-long treadmill session.
Plus, HIIT may actually increase testosterone levels. It can also boost GLUT4 concentration, which helps drive glucose into cells.
In addition, according to the American College of Sports Medicine, just two weeks of high-intensity intervals improves your aerobic capacity as much as 6-8 weeks of treadmill jogging. Pretty darn impressive, right?
So, knowing all this, you've probably set out on a mission to do nothing but strength training and HIIT workouts. After all, you're looking to keep fat levels at a minimum while building lean muscle. But is this really the route to go? Is high-intensity training always the best type of cardio?
Take a moment to consider adding steady-state cardio to your training—slow and steady might not win the race, but it definitely has its place along the way. Here's what steady-state cardio will do for you.
1 You Will Recover Faster
If you've allotted yourself an hour of daily gym time and consistently train hard, you might be forgetting one essential part of the equation: recovery. The effects of a workout don't stop once you leave the gym, and that feeling of fatigue might not either.
Sure, interval training allows you to complete a full cardio workout in less time, but it taxes your central nervous system to a high extent. If you couple HIIT with a number of other strength-training workouts throughout the week, you won't spur recovery; you might actually impede recovery.
If you're already using up most of your resources for strength training, you won't have much gas left in the tank to successfully complete multiple interval workouts. Chances are, you'll just be digging yourself deeper into the recovery hole—and making it harder to get out.
Moderation is the key. Coupling strength workouts with three days of high-intensity interval training every week could tap you out. In this case, the enhanced recovery you'd see with steady-state cardio training surpasses any potential fitness gains you'd get by doing more sprint work.
Try low- to moderate-intensity workouts to help increase blood flow to damaged muscle tissues and boost your recovery.
2 You Will Maintain Muscle Mass
Normally, sprint training—as opposed to moderately intense endurance work—is actually better for retaining lean muscle. Basically, it provides a stressor on the muscle that mimics weightlifting more than distance running does. However, there are exceptions. If you couple an intense low-calorie diet with numerous strength training and sprint workouts each week, you'll actually risk muscle mass loss.
Poor recovery and poor nutrition spell trouble. The harder you work out, the more glycogen you burn, which can leave you extremely hungry post-workout. Moderate intensity, steady-state cardio doesn't take as large a toll on your body as a HIIT session, which can make dieting easier and increase your calorie burn without over-stressing your system.
3 You Will Burn Calories
If you're someone who leads a relatively sedentary lifestyle—and typically goes from sitting at a desk to sitting on your couch—adding in some form of daily cardio is a wise move. But you might not be ready for HIIT. It's OK to scale things down. And yes, you'll still see results.
While you won't get the same post-workout calorie burn from moderate intensity, steady-state cardio as you would a good interval sprint session, you'll still burn a decent number of calories—and they do add up.
Thirty minutes of jogging can burn approximately 300 calories. Do that five days every week and you could lose almost two extra pounds per month.
4 You Will Build Up Your Aerobic Fitness
Steady-state cardio brings more benefits than weight loss. It's great for developing your aerobic fitness level and increasing your cardiovascular endurance.
The benefits of steady-state cardio are functional and translate to real life. If you participate in weekend adventure activities like hiking, cycling, or rowing, cardiovascular endurance is essential.
5 You Will Stick With It
Sometimes a fitness plan comes down to one simple question: Are you going to stick with it? While interval training might be the superior cardio modality for fat loss, if you absolutely hate sprint training, what good does it do you? Are you honestly going to keep up with your workouts if you dread doing them?
First and foremost, remember the key role of enjoyment in exercise. The less you fear—or better yet, look forward to—your daily sweat session, the more likely you are to make it routine.
This isn't to say you should never do an exercise that doesn't top of your list of favorites, but if you despise every second of a training session and there are alternative options, consider switching things up.
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I like how you sent your message, Shannon, that you dont HAVE to only do HIIT... Right to the point, HIIT is good for fat loss, but you dont JUST have to do it. (I, personally, cant stand long runs or bouts of steady state... so HIIT is my excuse to avoid it!!).
I really like doing both in a week. I feel like it gives me a good balance. As a marathoner, I have a hard time giving up my steady state runs because they are relaxing to me. Also, if I'm feeling super gassed and can't work myself up for HIIT, steady state cardio still gets me to the gym. Better than the couch-always!
I would never couple HIIT with strength training back to back. That IS a recipe for disaster. HIIT in the morning, 3 days a week, and strength training at night. The only point I think holds real weight is that steady state can help recovery. But keep in mind that's low intensity steady state (according to the journal I read) and it won't specifically aid in fat loss unless you're undertrained.
I coupled 45 min strength training with 15 min HIIT at the end for close to 2 years with no disaster... I dont know what some people consider "high intensity"... but some folks must be taking it to an extreme if they think the only way to utilize HIIT is going "balls to the wall" for 30-45 mins. HIIT is very effective and doesnt have to create as much stress on the body as some articles are proposing. 15-30 min (max) of intervals, with varying rest/work periods doesnt spell disaster unless you create an unecessary workload... but then you probably wouldnt be able to finish your cardio session if that were the case.
HIIT is a superior fat loss cardio...But if you go in to extremes like hitting the iron for 2 hours and adding another 45 min of HIIT training on a daily basis your body doesn't get the time to recover and the chance of burning muscles increases...
HIIT is not meant to be done for 45 mins... 15-30 mins if plenty. Like Rockthembeats said, you shouldnt pair a super long weight session with HIIT. After 45-60 mins of continuous exercise your body starts to catabolize your muscle, unless your fueling it continuously with BCAA's and such. Either way, HIIT is a great fat burner.
For me, High Intensity strength training and HIIT don't mix well, I need more recovery time. One or the other. I don't want my cardio to get in the way of my weight training, so I do some low intensity cardio with high intensity strength training.
HIIT is legit to be sure, however I find this article sound counsel in that a steady state cardio regimen lends itself nicely into developing a gradual comfort level with intensity training. Given the import of recovery not to mention the wisdom behind keeping one's body guessing from one workout to the next as opposed to engaging in analogous routine like clockwork as it were, I can appreciate the gist of conveyance on the author's part.
Glad I read this. I am a runner and Crossfitter. I recently changed my schedule around, so that I get my 6 AM runs in before my 9:30 AM crossfit class for the last 2 1/2 months. Well last week I started to feel tired and weak before Crossfit. I think I may switch to a later class times I can get better meals in as well.
Steady pace is crucial just like streching is crucial. It adds balance and personally I need it for variety. It nmakes me enjoy my training as I dont always have to be done with cardio in 15 min.
My favourite low intensity cardio is fasted power walk in nature. I then have an intense weight session (body splits) and streching and foam roling.
As a fitness contests ompetitor I need to be able to ALWAYS progress week by week, so just doing HIIT would prevent that.
I used to do 15.hr heavy weight, then 15 min hiit, then 20 min steady pace all in one session - THAT was a disaster. I ended up overtraining and getting weaker.
So train smart, listen to yuor body, eat unprocessed foods and train like an athlete. Every athlete does steady pace cardio.
HIIT = muscle building and fat loss if done right, there are people who do HIIT wrong i.e. post resistance training vs pre resistance training. Doing HIIT before your resistance training actually gives you a greater testosterone release making your resistance training much more efficient.
Steady state cardio = possible reduction in muscle mass depending on duration and frequency. If your goal is weight loss it makes sense to incorporate steady state in your routine. I think the greatest benefit is the fact that it will strengthen your heart, you would think everyone wants that. There are other options for recovery i.e. yoga which will actually help strengthen up your soft tissue and help you see better gains from resistance training. In the end steady state is good just don't over do it.
My question is this, though the answer is probably different for everyone - If I only have so much energy after hitting the weights - am I better off doing 30 minutes of steady state, or 10-15 minutes of Hiit? While the fat burning component is probably higher per minute on the Hiit, if I've only got enough drive, energy - whatever that infernal voice in my head is that tells me to go get coffee - which is best? (I've tried to kill that voice, as I get older, it gets louder.)