Steady State Cardio

Steady State Cardio

Steady state cardio has a place in everyone’s fitness routine, even the top pros! In today’s fast-paced world where our schedules are always full, the to-do list seems to never end, and we are constantly chasing the next deadline, it pays to go slow for a change.

Steady state cardio has become somewhat of an underdog to HIIT in recent years, and that’s a shame. The truth is, less intense activities can be incredibly beneficial under the right circumstances, and you should never overlook them.

Today, we’ll go over exactly why that is. Let’s dive in.

What is Steady State Cardio?

As its name suggests, steady state cardio (SSC) is a moderately-intense activity you perform for an extended period of time.

The goal is to raise your heart rate to a specific percentage of your maximum heart rate (MHR) and keep it there for at least twenty to thirty minutes.

Specifically, you should aim to keep your heart rate between 60 and 70 percent of your maximum. This is typically calculated by subtracting your age in years from the value 220. 

For example, if you’re 36-years-old, calculating max heart rate would look like this:

  • 220 – 36 = 184 MHR (Max Heart Rate)
  • 184 * 0.6 = 110 BPM
  • 184 * 0.7 = 129 BPM

So, if you’re 36, your workout heart rate should be between 110 and 130.

Click to learn how to calculate you heart rate.

The Best Types of Steady State Cardio

The great thing about steady state cardio is that you can pick from various options. For instance, jogging. This is one of the most popular choices, and many people enjoy it because it feels good, boosts their mood, and brings about the runner’s high.

Here is a solid list of steady state cardio:

  • Jogging
  • Swimming
  • Riding a bike
  • Hiking
  • Jumping rope
  • Treadmill
  • Stairmaster
  • Elliptical trainers
  • Rowers

Steady State Cardio Machines

Advantages and Disadvantages of Steady State Cardio

The most notable benefit of low-intensity cardio is the variety. Regardless of your circumstances, you can choose from a wide range of activities and keep your workouts fresh and engaging.

Low-intensity activities are also beneficial because you get to give your body a break from the more intense training. Sure, HIIT is great, but you can’t always push yourself to your limits. Additionally, you can’t do HIIT each day, or it will put too heavy a burden on your body.

Low-intensity cardio is also great because most folks can do it, so finding a training partner isn’t that challenging.

Easy On Your Joints

As you get older, your joints are more prone to injury and discomfort. Low intensity cardio is much easier on your joints, such as your knees, hips, ankles, and toes.

And finally, activities like long outdoor jogging are less intense than HIIT, you don’t have to consciously push yourself to keep going, and you can use that time to meditate, think, and clear your mind.

Disadvantage of Steady State Cardio

The most apparent drawback of less intense exercise is the longer duration. You have to spend much more time for the same caloric burn you would get in half the time doing HIIT. Another drawback that ties into this is how boring it can feel at times. Activities like jogging are beneficial, but they can feel a bit boring at times. Still, you can make the experience more engaging by listening to your favorite tunes, an audiobook, or a podcast.

The Importance Of a Proper Warm-Up

Many people discount the importance of a good warm-up for less intense activities. But, the truth is, preparing the body for any type of exercise is essential. (1)

For one, warming-up your joints is important for keeping them well-lubricated and safe from potential injuries. This primarily applies to your hips, knees, and ankles – you don’t want to go for a run only to find yourself with an injured ankle a few minutes later. (2)

Warming-up your muscles is also essential because it helps activate them better and allows the various bodily enzymes responsible for energy production to work efficiently. This will improve your performance and decrease the risk of pulling a muscle.

Making Cardio Fun

It’s also a good idea to have some music to make the process more enjoyable! A simple walkman is sometimes the easiest way to listen to music while doing cardio. Steady state cardio often times is for a longer period of time than HIIT, so it’s nice to have some music to help pass the time.

Click to return to low intensity exercise.

David Williams

David Williams

A diet and fitness enthusiast, David Williams is an ex-Army Airborne Ranger and Infantry soldier with decades of fitness and wellness experience. A West Point graduate with a degree in engineering, he focuses on technical research related to fitness, nutrition, and wellness. He loves the beach, and spending time with his wife and daughters.


  1. Preparing for exercise. HealthEngine Blog. (2020, June 20).
  2. Default – Stanford Medicine Children’s health. Stanford Medicine Children’s Health – Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital Stanford. (n.d.).

Click to see our medical disclosure.