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What's Best: Steady State or HIIT?

Question: what type of exercise is best for fat loss (especially if you're a woman over 40).

The answer might surprise you.

For years we've heard cardio, but what kind of cardio? Should you lean on steady state exercise like long walks, jogs, or bike rides OR is it better to do shorter, higher intensity workouts like running, a spin class or grind it out on the stair master?

I get this question a lot.

And while the truth is both types of cardio exercise have benefits, they also have their drawbacks. It really comes down to your health, fitness and weight loss goals.

the best exercise for weight loss

Let's explore these two types of cardio so you can make the best choice for YOU, considering your body, your lifestyle, and your goals.

Steady State Exercise

This is classified as low intensity steady state cardio activity where you can maintain a heart rate of around 50 to 70 percent of your maximum heart rate.

Typically considered any aerobic or cardiorespiratory physical activity that can be performed for 30 minutes or more at a consistent level of intensity. For example, a brisk walk, light jog, long distance bike ride or swim where you can maintain a steady pace throughout the duration of the activity.

Steady state exercise is excellent for both beginners and the more advanced fitness goers because it balances intensity and duration well, allowing you to train longer, and as a result burn a high level of calories during the activity. And many of the activities are low impact, placing less strain on the joints.

Physical activities that tend to fall into the steady state category are: biking, jogging, long brisk walks, hiking, rowing, and using traditional cardio endurance machines such as the elliptical or recumbent bike. This type of training is great for supporting heart health, bone density and endurance while placing less stress on the joints and body overall.

Steady State Cardiorespiratory Exercise

Benefits of steady state exercise:

  • Builds aerobic endurance

  • Supports heart health

  • Ideal for beginners

  • Requires less recovery time

  • Reduced risk for more sedentary lifestyles and those recovering from an injury

  • Provides calorie burn relative to the level of intensity (low to moderate) while engaging in the activity

  • Places less strain on the joints

  • Activities can be performed more frequently

  • Higher level of retention


  • Increased risk of overuse injuries when routine is not varied

  • Body adapts quickly which can translate to less weight loss achieved over time if routine is not varied

  • Minimal if any “after burn” metabolic effects

  • Working at too low of an intensity repeatedly will not build endurance

  • Doing the same activity, at the same intensity level, day after day with little to no variation (i.e., incline/decline or speed changes) does not challenge the body

High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)

High Intensity Interval Training, otherwise known as HIIT, is a style of exercise that is typically broken into segments of high intensity bursts of effort followed by a lower intensity recovery period. For example, a 30-second all out sprint followed by a 1-minute slow jog or fast paced walk.

Typically, a HIIT workout will be 10–30 minutes in duration. This type of interval training can be used in the form of cardio based activities, such as walk to run intervals, or with elements of strength, such as squat jumps to plank rows. During the high intensity burst, the goal is to raise your heart to it's max heart rate zone, followed by a recovery period that allows your heart rate to come back down into its active heart rate zone.

This type of training is often used as conditioning for individuals who play or compete in fast action sports, such as football, baseball, soccer, and short distance track events, by helping them to improve their speed, endurance and agility.

Note: individuals who are recovering from injury, are overweight, over 65, or have medical conditions should consult their physician prior to engaging in this style of exercise due to the higher intensity and strain it places on the body and its systems.

High Intensity Interval Training


  • Achieves a high calorie burn in less time

  • Increases aerobic and anaerobic fitness abilities

  • Supports heart health

  • Boosts speed, endurance and agility

  • Offers an “after burn," effect, with an increased metabolic burn up to 36 hours post exercise


  • Requires greater recovery time

  • Utilizes a higher amount of energy from multiple muscle groups

  • Should not be preformed more than 2 times a week

  • Not ideal for beginners or those recovering from injury

  • Carries an increased risk for injury due to intensity

Considerations of HIIT

Bottom line - there are benefits for both types of cardio training activities. The key is to consider your health, fitness and wellness goals and then choose the training modality that best supports those goals. Both have their benefits and their drawbacks, as always choose what you enjoy and you'll naturally be inclined to do more of it!

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