Steady State Cardio vs High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)

Steady State Cardio vs High Intensity Interval Training--we often hear these two different styles of cardio and wonder which is best to achieve the desired result of fat loss or increased fitness. These styles are both slightly different and each offer pros and cons.


Steady state is exercising at a light or moderate and steady pace such as consistent walking, constant speed biking or even a light run.


  • A steady pace is a great way to build stamina if you are new to exercise
  • It won't deplete you. It will bring many fitness benefits and still allow you to have reserve energy without complete fatigue. Great if you are heading straight to work and don't want to hide under the desk
  • It will increase your fitness level and benefits here are your heart health. It will increase the size of its muscles and improve its efficiency.
  • It's enjoyable. It is not stressful on the body and often easier to continue at steady pace so you are likely to continue. If you are prone to not committing, then finding what you enjoy makes it easier to keep going.


  • It chews up time. So if you are time poor this may be difficult
  • Risk of injury through long sessions of repetitive movement, eg long distance runners and cyclists
  • Boredom. If it takes a long time and it is repetitive, and you get bored, you may be discouraged to continue from regular sessions.


HIIT involves alternating periods of high intensity exercise with brief periods of lighter activity or rest. You must work especially hard in the high intensity phases to make it effective and your heart rate will jump to 85% to 95% of maximum in this phase. It is a workout technique that can be applied to most forms of exercise.


  • You'll burn fat during AND after a session. Studies have found that it burns up to 3 times as much fat during and after workouts as steady state cardio
  • It's efficient and can be kept interesting and stimulating. If you're busy or time poor or bore easily, HIIT is advantageous.


  • It's tough! HIIT quickly depletes you of energy and recovery can take many hours. This may not be the best choice for you if you have to head off to work and still have your A-game.
  • There's confusion about the right work-to-rest ratios. Harder does not necessarily mean better. Working out your perfect combination for you can take an experienced trainer.


  • Stick with steady state if you are working on building your fitness first.
  • For general health and fitness, a combination of both is wise.
  • HIIT if done properly can have faster effects than steady state.
  • HIIT is more stressful on the body, so if you are already stressed (work, diet, lack of sleep, sickness) then steady state is a better option for that moment.
  • Both are effective done fasted in the morning.
  • Body adapts to both methods and variations each 3-4 weeks or so is necessary to bring about change.

- Janet Kane, Challenge Master Coach