Why Steady-State Cardio Is Better Than You Think

Plenty of people are ditching steady-state cardio sessions, reasoning they’re old fashioned and not very effective. But steady-state cardio deserves a second look, so we’re diving in.

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HIIT is good for fat loss, but don’t count out steady-state cardio. | iStock.com

Anyone who likes to lead an active lifestyle is going to enjoy themselves significantly more if they increase their cardiovascular endurance, and steady-state is the best way to make it happen. Mike Robertson, C.S.C.S., explained to Experience Life these moderate efforts boost the capacity of the left ventricle in your heart. This makes your heart stronger and more efficient, meaning you can circulate the same amount of blood with fewer beats. If your ticker is lagging, your weekend hikes or bike rides will leave you winded.

woman doing exercises with medicine ball in a gym

Doing intervals with short rest periods can be a great option. | iStock.com/criene

Though science is still unsure of the specifics, you need to expend more calories than you consume in order to see the number on the scale go down. Any activity that gets your heart pumping is going to help with this, including steady efforts.

The reason being these short burst of vigorous effort burn more calories per minute than a sustained activity. There’s definitely research to back this up. One popular example was published in the International Journal of Obesity. In the study, women were assigned to one of three groups: control, steady-state cardio, or high-intensity intervals. At the end of the 15-week trial, the women who adhered to the interval program lost significantly more body fat than both other groups.

male athlete biking on a road in the country

Long bike rides might actually be a better bet if you enjoy doing them. | iStock.com

In some instances, though, the opposite has proven true. A team of Italian researchers conducted a study with 20 obese subjects, prescribing either a high-intensity program or a low-intensity program for three weeks. Both groups lost weight and reduce body fat, but those who engaged in the more moderate exercise saw significantly better results. However,opting for more steady-state cardio sessions may be a better choice simply because you’ll be more likely to stick with your program.

Exhausted man lying on the ground after a brutal CrossFit workout

Going high intensity all the time could result in some skipped workouts. | iStock.com

We’re not arguing you should eliminate all interval training from your fitness program, just that you also need steady-state to get the best results. Because HIIT sessions are so vigorous, your body can only handle so many of them a week. If you try to go for an all-out effort every time, you’ll just end up exhausted and injured. BodyBuilding.com explained steady-state cardio will help repair your damaged tissues, so your body will be ready to go for your next tough workout.


Exercise of any kind is good for your brain. | iStock.com

And remember, overall health is about more than just what your body looks like. Your brain also benefits from exercise, and slow and steady might actually be best. Recent research compared how steady running, interval training, and resistance training affected brain function among rats. Of the three types of exercise, sustained cardio efforts generated the most new brain neurons. Obviously, humans and rodents aren’t the same, but it’s also not outlandish to suggest these results could be similar when applied to people.

Rather than suggesting one form of exercise is better than the other, it’s more helpful to understand that they each bring something else to the table. A good program should absolutely include challenging workouts, strength training, and efforts to improve and maintain flexibility. But it should also include steady-state cardio.