Interval Training vs. Steady State Cardio – Body by Frame

Special Contribution to Austin MD by Stephanie Flores, FRAME Club


When it comes to exercise we are always looking for an immediate gratification or what’s the best way to get results. There has been an increase in popularity for Interval and HIIT Training. You may find yourself asking what is it, how does it work, and will it work for me?
Traditional cardiovascular exercise has always been thought of as long periods of aerobic activity for 20 ­ 60 minutes. Such activity usually consist of running, walking, biking, swimming, or elliptical. While doing steady state cardio you would need to maintain a heart rate that is challenging, but at a manageable pace typically between 60­70% intensity. It is standard to increase the volume by time, frequency, or distance to improve cardiovascular endurance and strength.
Interval or HIIT Training are quick high energy exercises followed by short low intensity rest intervals. Work intervals are approximately 2 minutes or less and at 80­100% intensity level. The rest intervals are anywhere from 10 seconds to 2 minutes and at a lower intensity level. You would repeat the cycle as many times for a total time between 15 ­ 30minutes.
The two different types of cardio burn from different sources. Steady state cardio requires more oxygen and burns from the fat stores for fuel. Doing steady state will burn at a higher percentage of fat, but less overall calories. Interval training uses mostly stored carbohydrates for fuel. However, interval training makes you breathe harder, burns more overall calories, and of that amount higher fat calories. Thus, you would need to do a longer period of steady state cardio to equal that of the interval training’s calorie burn.
If you are an athlete and compete you can use both, but should use periodization. In season it is wise to do activity that your sport calls for. For example, if you are a marathoner focus on distance in­season and in off­season switch to more explosive activity or shorter distance. This will help to build your overall game.

Both forms of cardio are beneficial and effective in their own ways. They both can increase your cardiovascular endurance, fat oxidation, heart strength, cardiac muscle mass, blood flow, and oxygen supply. However, if you are pressed for time you may consider Interval Training. It is best to implement them both to have a balance between pushing yourself and allowing recovery from high impact, intensity, over­training, or volume.

Want to try Interval Training?
Here is an alternative to steady state running that can be done on a treadmill, track, or trail. Warm up at a low to moderate intensity for about 5­10 minutes. Then sprint for 30 seconds and walk for 30 seconds. Repeat for approximately 15 ­ 20 minutes, followed by a 10 minute cooldown and stretch.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

five × 1 =