HIIT Vs Cardio Training

HIIT Vs Cardio: Which One Should You Do?


Billy Hughes
August 25, 2021

If you usually enjoy steady-state cardio, you might want to mix up your workouts a bit.

Chances are you’ve heard about HIIT (High-Intensity Interval Training) and want to try it out.

Why is HIIT so good?

HIIT is known for being a great way to torch some extra calories, and you can add it to any type of exercise which makes it versatile.

With that in mind, let’s explore HIIT vs cardio. We’ll look at their respective pros and cons, and compare them when it comes to important things you should know about these types of exercise. 

What Is Steady-State Cardio Vs HIIT? 

Steady-state cardio is aerobic exercise. It can be described as continuous exercise that requires moderate effort for a longer period of time.

By comparison, HIIT is anaerobic exercise that makes use of shorter bursts of high-intensity exercise followed by restful periods. 

Cardio and HIIT share some similarities. They both reduce blood pressure, improve your metabolism, and ensure that your VO2 max (which is the measurement of the maximum amount of oxygen your body is able to process) is increase.

Steady-State Cardio 

Steady-State Cardio


  • It’s a low-impact exercise. Whether you’re recovering from an injury or you’re trying to be gentle on your joints, steady-state cardio is excellent on both counts.
  • It boosts your endurance. When you do cardio for longer periods of time at a slower pace, this builds your muscle endurance. You’ll be able to increase your capacity for exercise sessions that last longer.
  • It improves your heart health. Steady-state cardio is excellent for your heart. It trains your heart to become better at pumping oxygenated blood to your muscles. 
  • It reduces recovery time. Since steady-state cardio puts less stress on your muscles, you will recover from your workouts faster. Your muscle tissue will also get repaired faster.
  • It uses body fat as fuel. One of the best things about steady-state cardio for weight loss is that the longer you exercise in a steady state, the more you’ll use stored fat in your body as fuel.


  • You risk weight loss plateaus. While you can burn body fat by doing steady-state cardio workouts, these can lead you to remain stagnant in your weight-loss goals because you need to give your body different challenges from time to time.
  • Steady-state cardio can be very time-consuming. Working out for longer periods of time isn’t always easy to fit into your fitness or work schedule.
  • You might find that cardio becomes a bit boring. Once you get used to doing it, you might crave a bit of a varied routine. 


fit couple training with dumbells


  • HIIT workouts improve your insulin sensitivity. When your body is more sensitive to insulin this means that it doesn’t need insulin as much to lower your levels of blood glucose. HIIT helps your muscles to use glucose as fuel in a much more efficient way.
  • HIIT burns calories after you exercise. HIIT enables your body to torch calories after your workout. This is known as post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC). When you work harder during your exercise session, your body will take longer to get back to its normal state. The result of this is that it will continue to burn calories for about an hour after your workout has come to an end.
  • HIIT can be done in shorter amounts of time. You’re pushing your body hard during a HIIT session so you reap the benefits of exercise after a shorter amount of time than if you engaged in a longer workout session.
  • HIIT burns more belly fat. HIIT has been found by research to burn more abdominal fat. In the study, people who did HIIT decreased their visceral fat by 17 percent in just three months. 


  • It’s not easy for anyone to do HIIT workouts if they don’t have some basic fitness under their belt. This is because it can be quite a vigorous workout.
  • HIIT can cause injury. This is because vigorous workouts can put pressure on your body, resulting in strains on the joints or overuse. 

HIIT Vs Cardio: What To Know About Them

Before you choose to make your next workout session either HIIT or steady-state cardio, it helps to compare these two exercises according to their different features so you can see which one will suit you best.

Fat-Burning Potential

fat burning potential

If you want to shed some extra pounds, you might wonder if cardio or HIIT is your best bet. HIIT has the edge over steady-state cardio when it comes to helping you to burn more fat during your workouts. This is as a result of various factors.

For starters, HIIT burns more calories. You can torch around 450 calories per half an hour of HIIT, as compared to approximately 300 calories burned by jogging for half an hour. This in itself is not the most important point, though.

HIIT is able to help you keep burning fat and calories for hours after your workout. It achieves this by putting your body’s repair cycle into overdrive.

Versatility And Ease Of Use

There’s no doubt about how steady-state cardio is easy to do at any time. If you want to go for a jog or walk, you can do it outdoors or in your home without the need for much preparation. This also means you can incorporate more steady-state cardio into your life.

As for HIIT, it’s also quite versatile. You can do it with a variety of exercises without a problem. For example, you can do it during steady-state cardio exercises, such as running, or use HIIT in your strength-based workouts.

That said, it has been recommended to use HIIT with exercises that enable you to make explosive moves, such as kettle-bell swings and push-ups as this makes it even more effective.

Steady-state cardio is about working out for a longer period of time, whereas HIIT workouts can be done in 10 minutes or less. Therefore, they are easier to add to your schedule if you’re looking for a real boost to your fitness and weight loss.

It’s also a bit easier than steady-state cardio to add to your life. For example, you could do HIIT during your lunch break at work or even during your commute to and from the office.


HIIT is generally safe for everyone to do, but it does carry risks if you overuse it. It’s said that 90 minutes per week is considered to be safe for healthy people. If you do too much HIIT, it can disrupt your metabolism and athletic performance, so it’s good to bear that in mind.

You are also at a greater risk of getting knee and shoulder injuries by engaging in too much HIIT, and this is often as a result of how not everyone who does it has the core strength, muscle strength, mobility, or flexibility required. 

What are the safety and injury risks for steady-state cardio?

If you engage in long periods of steady-state cardio too often, this can cause you to experience injuries from overusing the same muscles as well as fatigue. You also have to pace yourself and work up to longer steady-state cardio workouts.

Can You Combine Cardio And HIIT? 

Combine Cardio And HIIT

Not only can you combine cardio and HIIT, but you should!

It’s a bad idea to solely concentrate on one or the other as they won’t give you a comprehensive fitness plan. If you only do steady-state cardio, you might hit a fitness plateau or you might become bored with it and want something more fast-paced.

On the other hand, if you only focus on HIIT workouts, you’ll put your body under too much stress, which can lead to various consequences such as fatigue and injury. It’s therefore best to have steady-state cardio as a fitness foundation and then add some HIIT to it twice or three times per week.

Before you add HIIT to your steady-state cardio schedule, it’s good to remember that the whole point of this type of cardio is to build endurance.

So, a beginner who’s new to steady-state cardio should start with 15 minutes of exercise and slowly increase it to 20 minutes and then 30 minutes over time, all the way up to 90 minutes. It’s also good to engage in steady-state cardio fitness three to five times per week.

Once you’re in a good place with your steady-state cardio, you can add HIIT workouts to it so that you boost your exercise variety and fitness, as well as fast-track your weight loss.

You can do this by replacing a cardio workout per week with one HIIT session or two shorter HIIT sessions. Ready?

Here are some ideas of how to add HIIT to different cardio exercises.

Brisk walking 

You can add HIIT to your session of brisk walking by warming up for three to five minutes during which you walk at an easy pace, then walking at a steady pace for one minute, then walking at a brisk pace for one minute, before pushing yourself as hard as you can for one minute.

You should finish off by walking at an easy pace for between two to five minutes. 


young fit man running

Whether you’re running outdoors or on a treadmill, here’s an easy HIIT workout you can do:

  • Warm up with a brisk walk and work your way up to a gentle jog for the first 10 minutes.
  • For 30 seconds, run at a pace of 10mph.
  • Then, for two minutes, walk at a pace of 3.5 to 4mph. 
  • Repeat the above steps seven times. – If you find that you want more of a challenge, you can walk or run on an incline.
  • Once you’re done, you should cool down by walking for five minutes. 


When swimming, you can increase the intensity of your laps with some HIIT.

  • Start by warming up for between five to 10 minutes. Make sure you start slowly and increase your pace every two lengths of the pool. 
  • Sprint for one length, then recover for one length. Repeat this six times. 
  • Sprint for two lengths, then have active recovery for one length.

Repeat this four times. 

  • Sprint four lengths, then have active recovery for two lengths. Repeat this twice. 
  • Finally, swim at a very slow pace to recover for three minutes.
    You can repeat the intervals another once or twice, before cooling down by swimming slowly for five minutes. Make sure that you decrease your pace every two lengths.


fit couple caycling

You can also incorporate HIIT to your bike workout.

1. Start by warming up. Cycle at a medium resistance for three to five minutes.
2. Then, cycle for 30 seconds at a higher intensity, followed by one minute of low intensity. Repeat this four times.
3. Cycle for 40 seconds at a high intensity, then do one minute of low intensity. Repeat this four times.
4. Cycle for 30 seconds at a high intensity, then do one minute of low-intensity cycling. Repeat this four times.
5. Cool down by cycling at a slow pace for three to five minutes. 

Related Questions 

How do HIIT workouts actually work?

HIIT moves your body from aerobic activity to anaerobic activity. When your body’s in aerobic mode, it uses oxygen, while it uses stored energy instead of oxygen in anaerobic mode.

How many calories can you burn with 10 minutes of HIIT?

You can burn around 150 calories in just 10 minutes of HIIT, as a result of how your body will continue to burn calories after your exercise.


If you want to bolster your fitness routine with something different, you might want to try HIIT.

But there are still good reasons to do steady-state cardio! In this article, we’ve compared both types of exercise to see which one fares better when it comes to safety, ease of use, and other features.

We’ve also looked at how you can combine them to get the best of both worlds. 


Billy Hughes

Billy Hughes is a fitness trainer based out of New York. She has registered success in training clients at multiple fitness centers and thus aims to establish her module relevant to the post-pandemic era. Her space, Cerevellum.com, is an attempt towards encouraging and educating more people on the scope of indoor fitness. She believes the power of fitness can transform attitude, personality, and way of living. She also finds it rewarding to help people achieve their goals and make their lives better.