There’s a lot of disagreement in the fitness community over which type of cardio routine is the most effective – there’s high-intensity interval training (HIIT), long and steady cardio (like jogging), and slow and steady (walking). Each of these types of cardio exercise has various pros and cons, so let’s take a look at which form of cardio might be best for your needs.
HIIT (Sprints): Improves Anaerobic Capabilities
Putting in a 100% effort for a short burst of time can help improve your body’s ability to perform anaerobic exercise, or exercise without the usual amounts of oxygen getting to your muscles.
This is especially useful in a lot of sports, where the pace tends to be more stop-and-go and requires huge amounts of effort followed by a short resting period. Basically, HIIT drills are ideal for people looking to improve their athletic performance such as speed, explosiveness, and so on.
Long & Steady (Jogging): Builds Aerobic Endurance
Sticking to a pace that’s 75-80% of your heart’s top capability is the best way to improve your aerobic endurance and overall cardiovascular fitness. To reap the maximum benefits, you should stick to this consistent pace for at least 25 minutes.
The difference between jogging and sprinting that leads to a slower, steadier pace being better for cardiovascular fitness has to do with the way that your muscles turn fats and carbohydrates into energy.
Essentially, anaerobic exercises like sprinting can only be done for short periods of time, because without adequate oxygen, your body burns through its stores of glycogen and produces lactic acid, leading to muscle fatigue.
On the other hand, slower paces can be sustained for longer periods of time, giving the heart muscle more time to get used to pumping blood more effectively and allowing your body to learn how to use fuel more efficiently.
Slow & Steady (Walking): Burn Calories From Fat Without Muscle Loss
Brisk walking is a proven way to lose weight, and in some cases can even be more effective in terms of calorie expenditure than slow jogging, with less stress on the joints and leg bones. For older adults or those just starting on a weight loss or fitness program, walking can be a great way to ease into exercise.
Another plus of walking instead of jogging is that you can walk for long distances without the muscle loss that comes from long-distance running or jogging. As noted previously, aerobic exercise burns through your body’s fuel supply more slowly than anaerobic exercise.
But as even the most fuel-efficient car will eventually run out of gas, the long-distance jogger’s tank will eventually run empty, too.
At that point, the runner’s body, especially if they are particularly lean, will begin getting that fuel from the muscle fibers themselves, which can lead to muscle loss rather than gain over time.
Which type of cardio do you use the most often?