There seems to be a crusade in the fitness industry against moderate-effort, steady state cardio. Most of these anti-cardio fitness "experts" claim that high-intensity interval training (HIIT) is superior to steady state cardio for every person in the world, regardless of his or her fitness goals, current health, training history, injury history, body size, and body composition. Why does this have to be a black and white issue? Any activity or exercise has an appropriate time and a place. Why do we have to think of cardio as high intensity OR steady state? We really should be thinking high intensity AND steady state.
Exercises are not good or bad
No exercise is inherently good or bad, unless it is not consistent with your health and wellness goals. For this reason, it is puzzling that there are so many articles written by fitness gurus claiming that cardiovascular exercise is bad, or making people fat…. Seriously, there are articles recently written claiming cardiovascular exercise is making people fat!
Elite marathoners are not fat
If cardio were truly making people fat, then the group at biggest risk would be elite marathoners. Can you picture one in your head right now?
Many elites run in excess of 100 miles every week, with a large percentage of these miles at a slow and steady pace. Of course, elite runners often include interval workouts (which was HIIT before HIIT was called HIIT), strength training, and smart nutrition into their training. This is an important consideration: you shouldn’t do only do steady state cardio. Strength training, diet, flexibility, and interval training - all of these things are critical components contributing to overall health and wellness.
Cardio alone does not make you fat
Cardio alone does not make you fat. Eating too much, combined with moving too little, makes you fat. End of story.
The truth is that almost any sedentary person would benefit from some form of steady state cardio or cardio equipment use, and may not be the most appropriate target for a "go-until-you-puke" HIIT workout. Demonizing steady state cardio does nothing but display one’s bias against this form of exercise. A truly wise individual will assess the pros and cons of any activity and determine when, where, and with whom it is appropriate.
Cory Hofmann, MS
Senior Research Manager
Cybex Research Institute