Slow and Steady VS Interval Training. Which is Better?

The body requires exercise to tone, remain healthy, develop strength and endurance, and maintain an optimally functioning cardiorespiratory system. Both steady cardio and interval training have an impact on the body, benefiting it in various different ways.

It’s all in the steady cardio

Steady cardio involves low to moderate intensity activity for a minimum of thirty minutes. To maintain steady cardio without causing the body to fail from fatigue, the muscles utilize slow-twitch muscle fibers which give the body power and strength. With steady cardio, the adenosine triphosphate stored within the muscles deplete, preventing the muscles from contracting. Simultaneously, the body builds up lactic acid which increases the risk of muscle cramps and fatigue.

In exercises that require a focus on technique and pace, the fat burned is more a percentage of calories whereas harder anaerobic exercise such as sports, burns more glycogen.

Steady cardio has its advantages since it equips the body for endurance, improves cardiorespiratory function, burns fat, and enhances aerobic capacity. However steady cardio requires a lengthy time frame in order to see results when it comes to weight loss and improved aerobic capacity. It also requires sufficient self-discipline in order to persevere until the desired results are evident.

The impact of interval training

Interval training is hard exercise geared at pushing the body to perform above the lactate threshold. This forces the body to shift from aerobic metabolism to that of anaerobic. Anaerobic metabolism is often reached in sports such as basketball, football or sprints and causes the body to burn off glycogen. Glycogen fuels the muscles by burning up glucose in carbohydrates. As a result, the body immediately burns up fat bypassing calories causing more rapid weight loss than in steady cardio.

Some of the benefits of interval training include a higher rate of fat loss in a shorter amount of time, muscle strengthening, muscle building and ,crucially, a metabolism boost that encourages fat cells to burn post training.

The main disadvantage and caution of interval training pertains to an increased risk of muscle damage due to the high intensity demands on the body and the rapid depletion of glycogen stores which are responsible for repairing muscle tissue.

The Bottom Line: A Happy Compromise?

For athletes, interval training is perfect for preventing the body from reaching a plateau while working on power and strength. When athletes are not training for their next athletic event, interval training is a great cardio routine. In their preparation for athletic events, athletes should focus on steady cardio as a way of perfecting their fitness performance in order to excel during the event.

Beginners, on the other hand, should begin with steady cardio as a way to help the body adapt to continuous exercise. Given the fact that steady cardio improves the lactate threshold, beginners will be able to improve their threshold first before engaging in interval training. Once their body has adjusted and their lactate threshold improved, beginners can then move on to interval training.

With steady cardio, aerobic performance improves whereas interval training improves the body’s power and strength. Alternating between steady cardio and interval training for a period of two to three months each will help the body get the best of both worlds.