Steady state cardio vs HIIT: which exercise is better for our workout plan?
Believe it or not, getting healthy and fit isn’t just about spending hours in the gym every single day. It’s more about finding the right workout that can deliver the results you want.
If you’re starting with your fitness journey, finding the perfect workout won’t be that easy. You have to do a lot of research to know your options thoroughly. And frankly, the more research you do, the more confusing everything gets.
So, to make things a bit simpler for you, check out this beginner’s guide to steady-state cardio and HIIT.
If you’re like most people who are dreaming of achieving a toned, healthier body this year, chances are you’ve considered HIIT or High-Intensity Interval Training. This particular training style has been creating a buzz in the health and fitness industry in the last couple of years- and it’s not surprising why.
It comes with a long list of benefits, HIIT training is mildly addicting and beneficial. But is it for you?
We’ll get to that later, but first:
How Do HIIT workouts?
HIIT is a training technique that pushes you to give your maximum effort through quick but intense bursts of exercise. They are generally followed by quick, at times active, periods of recovery.
It’s supposed to get your heart rate up and burn more fat quicker.
How’s that possible?
Well, when you do HIIT, your body’s need for oxygen increases. It creates an oxygen shortage, which further increases when you’re in the recovery phase.
This is referred to as excess post-exercise oxygen consumption. It’s the main reason you’re able to burn more calories and fat when you do this training style.
If that’s not enough for you, let’s talk about a 1994 study published by Angel Tremblay from the Physical Activity Sciences Laboratory.
The study results suggest that HIIT is a couple of times more effective when it comes to burning fat than steady-state cardio.
The study had 14 women and 13 men joining the research. Their age ranged from 18 to 32.
The participants were divided into two groups. One group did a HIIT program while the other one went through endurance training.
After 20 weeks, the results revealed that the HIIT group experienced 3x more significant fat loss than the other group.
Now, here’s the surprising thing:
The participants who did endurance training lost more weight. Well, the difference isn’t that great, but that’s the result.
The HIIT group lost 0.1 kilograms in 15 weeks. Meanwhile, the ET group was able to lose 0.5 kilograms.
What Does a Typical HIIT Routine Look Like?
The simplest way to know what a HIIT routine looks like is to take a HIIT class. Or you can also watch tons of videos online.
However, if you want to know what a lab-tested routine looks like, see the 4×4 interval training from the Norwegian University Science and Technology.
Here’s how it goes:
Their HIIT routine starts with a warmup. Four 4-minute intervals follow it. Each comes with a 3-minute recovery period. It’s generally finished with a cool down.
As an example, let’s say you start jogging for 10 minutes as your warmup. You can do four 4-minute intervals of running. In between, do moderate jogging or even brisk walking for three 3-minutes at intervals. If you’re not a fan of those routines, you can try biking or swimming. Finish off with a 5-minute cooldown.
This entire routine should take about 40 minutes to complete.
Who Should Do HIIT?
Generally speaking, HIIT is an excellent workout for people who are in excellent physical health. As long as there’s no medical reason or injury, anyone can do it.
To give you an idea, the following people should think twice before doing HIIT workouts:
- Pregnant women
- Women who have just given birth
- People with a weak immune system
- People diagnosed with osteoporosis, heart conditions, pelvic floor weakness, prolapse, and incontinence
Now, before you dive in and join the trend, you have to keep in mind that people have different perceptions when it comes to what’s “tough.”
For some people, doing wind sprints and squat jumps are too much. For others, doing lunge jumps while holding dumbells is hard.
If you’re starting, don’t feel pressured about doing too complicated routines right off the bat. Instead of doing burpees and box jumps, do a power walk on your treadmill incline to get your heart rate up.
You should also approach HIIT workouts with more caution if you have no prior knowledge of performing exercise basics following the proper forms. Remember, sweating a lot during exercises doesn’t guarantee that you’re getting a great workout. You have to make sure you’re doing your workouts correctly, not just for the benefits but for your safety as well.
The Top Benefits of HIIT
One of the top benefits of HIIT Is losing body fat in a short amount of time. This is why it’s an excellent workout for people with busy schedules.
In addition to that, HIIT is also great in managing high insulin resistance. By working your muscles repeatedly, you’re enabling them to learn how to use glucose more efficiently, significantly improving insulin (the hormone that helps manage blood sugar levels).
If your weight is also causing your blood pressure to spike, HIIT may also help you with that. It helps train the heart and blood vessels, so they can work better and more efficiently, lowering blood pressure in the process.
What Is Steady-State Cardio?
Compared with HIIT, steady-state cardio involves doing exercises at a consistent intensity and speed throughout the workout.
Because everything’s constant, there’s less stress on your cardiovascular and respiratory system. And as a result, you’ll be able to improve your endurance without putting that much stress on your body.
Well, steady-state cardio is more time-consuming. It means that if you’re trying to lose weight, you’ll need to work out for more extended periods to burn calories. There’s also a good chance that you’ll experience weight loss plateaus.
Since it involves making the same motions throughout the routine, steady-state cardio can increase your risk of overusing your muscles.
Benefits of Steady-state Cardio
Although steady-state cardio is tedious and time-consuming, it’s not entirely that bad.
It’s recommended that you do steady-state cardio first before HIIT if you’re a beginner. The same thing applies to people who took a long exercise break.
If you are a runner and trying to improve your endurance, this is also an excellent exercise for you. Of course, you may add HIIT routines if that’s what your workout program needs.
Steady-state cardio is also suitable for people who can’t do high-impact exercises and trying weight loss challenge.
Honestly, you have so many options.
You can do a 45-minute cardio exercise on an elliptical or a treadmill. You can even start biking, jogging, or hiking if those are your kinds of activities.
Now, if you’re starting, it’s good to start with a 15-minute routine. Aim to get your heart rate no more than 55% of your maximum.
Work on gradually increasing your training. You can gradually increase it to a 20-minute routine or even 30 minutes.
As for frequency, try to do your steady-state cardio routine about 3 to 5 times a week.
Steady State Cardio vs HIIT: Which Is Better According to Research
Both exercises are great.
They are equally effective in their ways. They are convenient and safe ways to improve your cardiovascular system.
Now, if you are trying to get rid of fat, HIIT should be your choice. Remember the afterburn effect? It’s when your metabolism remains increased for several hours or days after your workout.
HIIT allows you to burn more fat in less time.
However, if you’re trying to improve your endurance, go with steady-state cardio. It’s also a better choice if you’re starting with your fitness journey since it’s less stressful.
Which Is Better for The Heart?
Honestly, you need both if you want to improve your heart health in the long run.
Cardiovascular health doesn’t only refer to your heart; it also includes your blood vessels.
Steady-state cardio makes the heart more efficient. It makes the organ pump less often.
On the other hand, HIIT is excellent in improving your heart rate recovery, resulting in a fitter heart.
The Bottom Line
As mentioned earlier, both HIIT and steady-state cardio are great exercises. To know which one’s better, you need to know your physical capacity and the results you want to achieve. Getting a deeper understanding of your lifestyle and overall health is also ideal if you want to know which of the two is better for you.
If you’re a beginner or you want to build endurance, steady-state cardio is for you. If you want to lose fat in less amount time, got with HIIT.
You can also do both as long as your health allows you to. If you’re not sure about that, consider asking for professional help.