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Is all cardio created equal?

We all know that cardiovascular exercise is the best way to expend calories and hopefully drop weight. So what is the difference between steady state cardio and interval cardio? Which is better? Which burns more fat? How much cardio is efficient? Which option takes less time?

First things first, all cardiovascular exercise is centered around your heart rate, hence it’s name (which hopefully you already knew, but if not, now you do). As your heart rate increases, your body expends more energy (calories) to keep pumping all that blood through your body to keep it moving to your heart to keep you alive.

So, what even is steady state cardio? Essentially, it is moving at a moderate intensity for a sustained period of time, keeping your heart rate a “steady state”. Examples include treadmill walk at a speed of 3.0 and an incline of 7 for 45 minutes, stairmill at level 5 for 45 minutes, treadmill jog at a speed of 6.5 for 60 minutes, etc. etc.

Got it? So what is interval cardio? Interval training is the exact opposite. It is when you work at a high intensity for a short amount of time, then drop down to a very very low intensity (rest) for a short amount of time, and then repeat that over and over. The point of this is to bring your heart rate all the way up near max and then drop down to a rest phase. Examples include treadmill sprint at a speed of 8.5 for 60 seconds and then walk at 2.0 for 90 seconds, repeat for 30 minutes, or stairmill at level 10 for 30 seconds and then level 4 for 120 seconds, repeat for 45 minutes, etc.

Now that you know what I’m talking about, let’s get into the details. I’m going to keep this short, basic, and to the point, please keep in mind that there is SO much more to this that I am leaving out because I don’t want to confuse (or bore) anyone. Okay, our bodies have a few different sources of energy to pump that blood through our entire bodies and back to our hearts. One of these being carbohydrates and the other being fat. The higher your heart rate, the more energy you are using, thus the more calories you are burning. When your heart rate is up really high, your body is using carbs as energy, but burning the most calories. On the other hand, when your heart rate is moderate, your body is using fat as energy, but burning less calories.

Well then, which form of cardio is better? (for weight loss) When done correctly, they are BOTH good! Changing up your cardio a couple times per week is your best bet! And when I say “done correctly” I mean a few things. When doing steady state, remember what you are trying to do, keep your intensity moderate so you are able to sustain it for over 30 minutes without fluctuating too much. And when doing interval work, it is SO important to make sure you that allow your heart rate to drop all the way down during your “rest” periods so you can utilize that fat-burn period efficiently.

So there’s cardio in a nutshell, as always, if you have questions about your current workout routine or need an update please feel free to contact me! I am here to help YOU!


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