The Benefits of HIIT vs. Steady State Cardio

By Dana Yarn, RDLD

Are you doing cardiovascular exercise every day and not seeing any results in terms of weight loss and or performance?  If you are performing steady state cardio for a certain period of time as your workout you may want to try HIIT (high intensity interval training) training to reap the benefits of fat loss and improved cardiovascular health.  After working in a large corporate health club for almost 10 years I saw the same people get on the same elliptical machine with the same body year after year, doing steady state cardio.  They could see tremendous results by cutting total time in half and increasing the intensity of their cardio workouts.

The good news about HIIT training is the workouts tend to be short and because of the intensity it is recommended to only do them 2-3 times per week.  On the other days you can do steady state cardio as “recovery,” and of course resistance training is essential for optimal health and body composition.


Convincing and ongoing research proves that the best form of exercise is short bursts of high intensity exercise.

Not only does it beat conventional cardio as the most effective and efficient form of exercise, it also provides health benefits you simply cannot get from regular aerobics/cardio, such as a tremendous boost in human growth hormone (HGH), which improves body composition, energy, and overall fitness.

One study published in the Journal of Obesity reported that 12 weeks of HIIT will result in significant reductions in total abdominal, trunk, and visceral fat while giving you significant increases in overall power and performance.

What HIIT workout should you start with?

At my studio I have a class titled HIIT and we incorporate Tabata intervals into the class.  Tabata method created by Dr. Izumi Tabata, a Japanese researcher who studied athletic performance.  The method is 20 seconds of drop dead effort followed by 10 seconds of complete rest repeated for 8 rounds totaling 4 minutes.  This type of interval training is great for anyone who is looking to try HIIT.

  • Warm up with 3-5 minutes of walking, light jogging or calisthenics.
  • Complete 1 round of Tabata (the 20 seconds could be jump squats, sprinting, box jump, switch lunges, etc.)
  • Cool down 3-5 minutes.
  • As you progress you can increase the number of rounds of Tabatas.

Other versions of HIIT include 15 seconds of work followed by double the amount of rest (30 seconds).  Working ultimately up to 2 minutes of work.

Here is an example of a 12 week HIIT training program. 

Week Work/Rest
1-2 15 sec./30 sec.
3-4 30 sec./60 sec.
5-6 45 sec./90 sec.
7-8 1 min./2 min.
9-10 1.5 min./3 min.
11-12 2 min./4 min.
Warm up & cool down 3-5 minutes. Total time with warm up and cool down should not exceed 30 minutes.

The great part is this can be done on a bike, in a pool, at a track, inside, outside, etc.

I hope this encourages you to shake up your workouts with some HIIT training even if it means just a few rounds of Tabata per week!


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