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Written By: Elsie Velazquez, Cert. Personal Trainer at Prescription Fitness (Cleveland, Ohio)

            In recent years HIIT (high intensity interval training) has become very popular on the fitness scene because of the metabolic benefits it offers and because it allows you to get in and out of the gym in a very short time.  The problem is that it is not good for everyone.  HIIT training is not easy!  You can’t ignore that fact that it is one of the most demanding types of workouts.  Because HIIT promises to provide fast results, many are willing to give HIIT a try even if they are not physically ready to do so.  Fortunately, there is an alternative that seems to have lost its allure…steady state cardio.

            Steady state cardio is simply a cardio workout that is a continuous, steady effort, as opposed to an interval cardio workout where you vary your energy output. Any cardiovascular/aerobic activity that is sustained for an extended time, usually starting at about 10 to 15 minutes for beginners and 20 to 90 minutes for more fit athletes, at a fixed intensity qualifies as steady state cardio.   It is recommended that you exercise within 55 to 85 percent of your maximum heart rate to get the best results. A simple way to estimate this is by using the following formula:  220 minus your age then multiply that number by 55%-85%.  It is safe to include 3-5 sessions of steady state cardio to your weekly routine.

Some of the main benefits of steady state cardio are:  increased endurance, better recovery, a more consistent workout routine, and less risk of injury.

            There are some people who think that cardio only counts if they are covered in sweat, completely out of breath, and super sore the next day.  While that is good for some, it is not what everyone wants or needs.  Toning down your effort is actually a great approach, especially if you’re a beginner or need a bit more down time in between tough workouts.

            It is important to know that cardio is an important part of your exercise program. Doing steady state cardio will not only help you shed pounds, but it will also increase your endurance.

            A 45 minute steady workout on the treadmill, stair climber, bike or elliptical is a great way to implement a cardio program into your exercise regimen at the gym.  If you prefer the outdoors, jogging, biking or walking for 45 minutes is the way to go.

            Keep in mind that although you need time to build endurance, a routine with too low of an intensity will not bring you results. You need to push yourself in order to burn calories and tone muscles.  Basically, if you can easily hold a conversation while on the treadmill, you may want to increase your intensity.

            Bottom line – while it is true that steady state cardio might not burn calories at the rapid pace that it does while doing HIIT and it does not offer the quick results that HIIT training offers, you will still get your body moving, shed some fat, and increase your endurance.   If you like the stress relieving benefits of exercise and enjoy doing something aerobic every day, steady state cardio is perfect for you.

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