Cardio is cardio, right? Not so fast. Sure, cardio of any sort is better than no cardio at all, but believe it or not, certain approaches to cardio have more of an emphasis on the overall benefits of cardio.
In the world of cardio, there are two general forms of cardio; steady cardio and high intensity interval training (HIIT). One puts more of an emphasis on keeping steadfast and constant over a longer period of time and the other is more of a “all out pedal to the metal” approach in a shorter amount of time.
So, which is better for getting in shape? It depends on your definition of “getting in shape”
Steady cardio can be defined as cardio done at a low moderate to moderate pace over an extended period of time. This may be jogging, elliptical, stair climber, a brisk walk or an uphill walk. These approaches or exercises put the heart rate in a certain zone that really helps emphasize fat burning. This is not to say that there are still no aerobic (cardiovascular) benefits, because there is. As noted before, cardio is great for anyone and everyone, but how you approach it determines the emphasis of certain benefits. Steady cardio does work the lungs and heart, but you will notice more of a structural change in the body with the loss of body fat as opposed to being in shape to run a triathlon.
High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)
HIIT is a very popular approach to cardio these days because of busy schedules and limited time in the gym. HIIT is done is short bursts of energy expenditure which makes them not just aerobic at times but also anaerobic (without oxygen). HIIT is phenomenal for both burning fat and getting in shape. As stated, steady cardio has more of a focus on fat burning than HIIT but HIIT is seen as more of a well rounded and balanced approach to cardio because of the aerobic benefits and also convenience factor. Now some people can only do steady cardio and that is fine, once again, doing anything is better than doing nothing.
So, if you are living a sedentary lifestyle, there is no need to jump right into HIIT because the smallest introduction of exercise into your life will make a big difference. As time goes and you see yourself getting in better shape, giving HIIT a try is highly recommended.