Have you been pondering this question? Are you conflicted as to which one you should be doing? Or which one is more effective? Well, let me tell you that there is no right or wrong answer here and it depends on several different factors. For some of us, steady state cardio is better and for others HIIT is much more effective.
HIIT vs Steady State Cardio
In this post, we’ll look at what is best for you and how you can decide which to choose. Before proceeding, you need to know the difference between HIIT and steady state cardio. If you don’t already know what HIIT is, please go back to my previous posts (numerous ones on HIIT). You can check them out here.
Steady state cardio can be used to describe long runs or walking. Even swimming laps or using the stationery bike are examples of steady state cardio. Basically, you will be engaged in activity at a slow or moderate pace that is consistent throughout the workout. You should not be overly exhausted and drained.
HIIT workouts, however, are quite the opposite. These workouts are short, hard and intense. They could be anywhere from 10 to 30 minutes and rarely exceed 30.
Even 30 minutes is on the high end. If doing it correctly, you should be totally winded within 20 minutes. You’ll be training at maximum intensity with minimum rest intervals. HIIT workouts are much more difficult than steady state cardio.
So, which one is right for you?
What is your weight?
The heavier you are, the less you should do HIIT. The exertion and impact on your joints will be great. It can increase your risk of injury. Therefore, sticking to steady state cardio and a sensible diet will help shed some of the excess pounds.
Once you’ve lost several pounds and probably have hit a plateau, then you can take up HIIT to speed up your remaining weight loss.
What is your fitness level?
If you’ve led a sedentary lifestyle for years, do NOT start off with HIIT. You will end up either injuring yourself or experiencing severe delayed onset muscle soreness the next day.
HIIT is best used by people who have been active for a while. Steady state cardio is ideal if you’re just coming off an injury or you’ve been inactive and just started exercising.
After about a month or two of regular exercise, you can slowly incorporate short HIIT sessions in your workout to challenge yourself. As time progresses, you can ramp up the intensity of the workouts and enjoy the benefits of HIIT. This is a training protocol that must be eased into gradually. You can’t jump into it overnight.
How much time do you have?
If you’re short on time, HIIT is fantastic for toning your body and getting you in shape. Your stamina will also improve despite the sessions being short. Busy moms, career women, etc. will find HIIT much more efficient. Of course, as mentioned earlier, make sure your body can handle it.
When are you training?
Ideally, HIIT sessions should be done early in the day so that your body is in fat burning mode throughout the day. If you’re training upon waking, make sure you have a light meal like a protein shake or a banana. Doing a HIIT on an empty stomach is not recommended.
If all you have is time in the evening after work, HIIT sessions may affect your sleep. Due to the intensity of the sessions, it may keep you awake at night.
Do you have injuries/health issues?
Always speak to your doctor before embarking on any exercise program. If you have heart issues or joint problems, HIIT might exacerbate your health condition. Your doctor will be the best person to speak to about this.
What is your pain threshold?
This is a very important point. The goal of exercise is to get you active and healthy. HIIT is a tough form of training. Some will dread the exhaustion and even if the workouts are short, you may fear them because of how tough they are.
If you find yourself making excuses to skip workouts or you’re constantly thinking about how much you hate training, you might want to give HIIT a pass for now. Do exercises that you like so that you’re able to stick with an exercise regime.
As long as you’re being active and enjoy doing what you’re doing, you’ll burn calories even if it’s steady state cardio. Once you’re fitter, you can slowly challenge yourself with some HIIT every now and again. You must do what is right for you if you want to be consistent with your training.
These are some of the questions you need to ask yourself before deciding which to choose. Both steady state cardio and HIIT have their time and place. The one you choose should be appropriate for your needs and goals.
The rules are not set in stone. You can start off slow and always progress with time. So, choose wisely and stay on track with your training.