The Difference Between High-Intensity Interval Training And Slower Cardio

For cardio, there are two categories: slower, steady-state cardio and high-intensity interval training, or basically sprints. The former is nice and plodding, the other is hard and heavily favoured by fitness enthusiasts. Both have their merits, but here’s how to know when one makes more sense than the other.

A 45-minute run at a nice pace is a good example of steady-state cardio. You get great exercise benefits and probably feel great after. The main issue is, it is still 45 minutes of your time. High-intensity interval training (HIIT), by contrast, is short and bittersweet: you get similar cardio benefits in less than half the time, but it’s so uncomfortably intense you might feel sick after.

And because it’s so intense you continue burning kilojoules (not much) long after you’re done. If you care about your physique and time spent, HIIT would suit you.

HIIT has its downsides though: it’s so demanding on your body that you should only do it a few times each week and it’s easy to get injured. Some people don’t have the heart or joint health to handle HIIT at all. Meanwhile, steady-state cardio is a safer option for most people, can be done more often and is a way to actively recover from heavy weight workouts. Both have a place in your routine, so do the one you can fit into your routine and enjoy doing (but don’t overdo it).

High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) or Steady-State Cardio — Which Is Better? [PictureFit]


  • HIIT doesn’t need to be high impact at all so there is no reason why you can’t do it every day. I suggest you pick up some skipping rope and go at it like a boxer. Starting with 1 min on/1 min off and work your way up to 3 min on/1 min off. Swimming and biking are also good examples of exercise that can be done with high intensity while being low impact on the body…

  • I like the Sprint 8 Protocol for HIIT.

    3 minute warm-up
    8 x 20-30 sec sprint on 2 minutes (i.e. start sprints on 3 minutes, 5 minutes, 7 minutes, etc.)
    2 minute cool down

    Awesome workout in 20 minutes.

    My preferred modality is stationary cycling: it’s easy to get you heart rate up and you’re not going to get hit by traffic.

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