Why steady state cardio is a waste of time

August 22, 2018

It’s only been twenty minutes… You cover the timer on the treadmill with your towel and open the Netflix app on your phone, hoping the time will pass more quickly. Today’s to-do list is scrolling through your mind. You have an appointment in forty minutes. The woman next to you has been on the cardio machine for close to an hour.


The cardio myth

The notion that “cardio” is the best way to lose weight has pervaded gyms and exercise circles for years. Miles clocked, steps counted, timers ticking away. Only the most informed athletes are aware that there are, in fact, two types of cardiovascular exercise: Aerobic and anaerobic. Both are necessary if you’re looking to tone up and trim down.

Steady state cardio workouts can help build a basic foundation of fitness by preparing the body for extended periods of effort. And on those days you just aren’t “feeling it,” longer, more relaxed cardio sessions can complement more intense training days by providing active recovery for your muscles.


Intensity matters

If your goal is weight loss, traditional forms of cardio are not likely the best use of your time. Here are three reasons why:

  1. Anaerobic cardio, short bursts of intensity sandwiched between periods of rest, use different energy stores than hours spent churning away on cardio machines. This kind of dynamic training places the body in the deficit you need to burn calories and boost metabolism – with effects sustained long after your workout session ends.

  2. Cardio completed at a steady state for long durations won’t have the same effect as high-intensity exercise. As your body becomes used to the performed activity, you will burn fewer calories overtime. By changing it up with sprints and dynamic routines, your body is kept guessing and your muscles are forced to respond.

  3. Steady-state cardio can impact hormones, elevating cortisol and thyroid levels, and making it even more difficult to shed excess pounds. Spiked hormone levels can ultimately place your body in a clingy, survival mode, and fat stores are sent into overdrive. This is not what you want if you’re trying to torch calories and tone up.


Making the change

When you’re used to spending extended periods on cardio machines, it can be difficult to make the switch to more dynamic, HIIT-inspired workouts. You may at first feel like you are not “doing enough,” or that you are not spending enough time in the gym.

Intense workouts require you to push your mind and body for targeted intervals. You won’t be able to zone out while listening to music or watching your favorite TV show. These condensed, intense routines are meant to be challenging, and you will need a solid fitness base in order to reap the benefits and build both endurance and strength. Our team is here to help.

Whether learning about Tabata training or designing body-weight circuits, we can help you make the most out of your time with quick, effective workouts. Try a class or schedule a session with a trainer if you are unsure how to begin. We are here for you and your fitness goals!


Further reading:

  • High Intensity Training: What is HIIT and how do you know if you’re doing it? – SELF.com
  • Why steady state cardio doesn’t work – Instant Knock Out
  • HIIT vs. Steady State Cardio – Very Well Fit


If you’d like help getting started, both from the Delta staff and our amazing community of women, download our free trial pass and schedule your free class today.

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