Why Steady State Cardio is Still Good For You

Fitness blogs (including this one) are always touting the benefits of heavier weights, high intensity interval workouts, and myofascial release (a.k.a. foam rolling).

It seems our old friend – the long, steady-paced cardio workout – has fallen out of favor. Which is bad news for all you book-reading elliptical lovers.

While it’s true that steady-state cardio alone is not enough to achieve most fitness goals, that doesn’t mean it’s a total waste of time.

Before we get into the benefits, let’s make sure we’re all on the same page.

Steady state cardio refers to a continuous cardio session (anywhere from 15 minutes for beginners, to 2 hours or longer distance runs), during which you maintain a consistent, manageable pace the entire time. Usually your heart rate stays around 60-70% of your max heart rate. In realistic terms, you could carry on a conversation the whole time, albeit a kind of breathy one.

The benefits of steady-state cardio

  • It’s easier on the joints than high intensity training.
  • It’s essential as a recovery from heavy weight lifting and pavement-pounding intervals.
  • Improves energy levels, mental focus, and mood.
  • Sweating helps your body release toxins and makes your skin look pretty (as long as you’re well hydrated.)
  • It’s easier to stick with a routine that’s not so hard on your body – you’ll see and feel gradual progress without risk of injury or overdoing it.
  • You’ll burn calories and improve cardiovascular function.

How to do it

It’s easy! (Which is why so many gym-goers default to this type of workout.) All you do is hop on a machine and stay there for a chunk of time. If you’re just starting out, try for 15 minutes. As you build up your endurance, increase the duration until you can do 45 – 60 minutes.

If you’re outside, it’s easier to do longer workouts. You can kill two hours in the woods without even noticing.

Be sure to set a pace that’s challenging – if you’re just strolling like you’re at the mall, it’s not going to accomplish much. We like the Rate of Perceived Exertion (RPE) scale. On a scale of 1 – 5, how hard are you working? You want your cardio workouts to be between 3 and 4.

Mix and match

You don’t have to do the same activity for 45 minutes – you can break it up! Ten minutes on the rower, 15 on the treadmill, and 20 on the bike works great, with the added benefit of not being so boring.

At AFF, our Gx classes mostly focus on functional movement and strength. Because we’re so passionate about this type of workout (we really do love it), it’s easy to forget about the humble cardio workout. Our main motivation behind this spring’s AFF-alachian Trail Challenge was to encourage you to do more cardio.

Haven’t signed up for the Challenge yet? It’s not too late! Just stop by the front desk and we’ll make it happen. Teams are already off to a promising start!


Written by Damon

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