Here are the most important things to consider when choosing between steady state cardio vs. interval training cardio, as it relates to your health and fitness goals:
1) Interval training is more time efficient. You get the same, or improved amount of calories burned working out at a higher intensity when compared with steady state cardio, in a fraction of the time.
2) Interval training “stirs the pot” inside your body much more so than traditional cardio. It stimulates a much greater release of hormones in your body that burn fat. Also, through the EPOC phenomenon previously mentioned, we burn much more fat calories IN BETWEEN workouts compared to steady state cardio.
3) Interval training can be more joint friendly (when comparing sprinting to jogging) because you A) don’t need to do it as often as steady state cardio to achieve the benefits, and B) you’re not “pounding the pavement” as hard as you would be going out for a jog, because each foot step spends less time on the ground. Not to mention, you’re taking your joints through a much broader range of motion (sprinting) compared to jogging. This further stimulates proprioceptors inside joint capsules, thus “lubricating” these joints with nourishment (i.e. movement) that they need to realize that they are actually there and can function at a higher level!
4) Adds Variety in your program – you can do interval training not just on a bike, elliptical, or treadmill. You could do cycles of body weight squats, push ups, lunges, planks, etc., and do them with a specific work/rest ratio, and creat your own little interval training protocol.
5) Interval training should be done with caution, however. I would certainly not recommend it to a beginning exerciser, as it will be important for this person to build up general aerobic capacity first before delving into interval training. The higher intensity nature required to illicit the EPOC phenomenon previously mentioned in part I and part II will be too intense and unsafe for that level of fitness with a beginning exerciser.
6) The frequency, or amount of times per week an individual partakes in interval training must be taken into consideration, as well as the duration of each session. PROGRESSIVE overload is important to understand here folks! Listen to your body. If your feeling lethargic, low energy, and/or having trouble sleeping at night, these are all signs of your body telling you that you need to take it back a couple notches to allow it to repair itself, and reduce circulating levels of stress hormones, such as cortisol.
7) Interval training, done at the right intensities, should NOT feel like a walk in the park. It is very challenging, it doesn’t feel good, it is extremely fatiguing, it WILL boost lactic acid to uncomfortable levels. Unfortunately, this is the byproducts of good interval training. It should FEEL ALOT more intense than steady state cardio. Thus, the individual partaking in this kind of exercise needs to be MENTALLY prepared to challenge themselves, and feel comfortable with being very uncomfortable.
8) Steady State Cardio is effective for improving fat utilization during strenuous, higher intensity exercise, lowering resting heart rate, improving parasympathetic tone, and reducing the amplitude of heart rate increase during more strenuous exercise.
9) Because the points in 8) are true, steady state cardio DOES have a time and place with training, but as it pertains to its effects with fat loss within the workout itself, it must be understood that very long durations are necessary to illicit these physiological benefits.
I may be a biased source, but in my opinion, the benefits of interval training is fantastic, and much more beneficial than steady state cardio when it comes to fat loss. However, steady state cardio still is an effective means for recovery, improved circulation, oxygen utilization, and good for the mind!
One final point to mention, however, and it is the MOST important point:
How do we PROGRAM these cardio sessions in a way that maximizes results? How do we progress or regress to facilitate progress?
For more information and answers to these questions, please contact me directly and we’ll come up with a plan just right for you!