Steady state cardio or long bouts of cardiovascular activity via the treadmill, bike, or elliptical is not the best idea for losing fat in my opinion. Long bouts of cardio has been entrenched in the minds of many for years, ever since the aerobic craze in the eighties. I am sure many remember the ruffled socks, head bands, and sweat until you drop routines. I read an article that explained that many of these aerobics fans that would go for 6 days a week are now suffering from many joint ailments such as Arthritis.
These findings have not stopped many at the gym from following the same path. If you go to most commerical gyms you will be amazed how many people will trot at the same pace for hours on that elliptical or treadmill. Also, pay attention to who are the most lean or musular at the gym. I guarantee it will be the poeple that are strength training and using some type of interval training for conditioning. On the other end of the spectrum the many on the bikes and ellipticals moving at a slow pace look the same they did last year.
I know that this can be attibuted to other unhealthy habits in conjunction with their poor choice of conditioning. One of the problems with long bouts of cardio is that constant repititive motions lead to overuse injuries. Studies have shown that testosterone decreases after an hour, which would decrease the ability to grow muscle. And muscle helps burn fat. The amount of time it takes to complete these hour or 2 hour sessions cause problems because the number one complaint of many is they don't have enough time. Moreover, they are boring and cease to work after our body adapts to this type of work.
How does interval training work. They are many ways to interval train. Some use shor high intensity efforts with recovery for a minute or two. Others use a slightly less intense effort with short rest periods. Which one do you use? You pick one according to your level of prepardness and change up once the body adapts and you are no longer getting results. Some key points are to make sure that you ease your way into intervals if you are not used to this type of training. Maybe start with 15 secs. of sightly intense work with a minute recovery if you are a beginner and work you up. A study in December in the Journal of Applied Physiology and conducted by a team at Canada's University of Guelph found that just two weeks of alternate-day interval training increased moderately active 22-year old women's fat burning ability by 36%.
Here are some Advantages of choosing Interval Training over Steady State Cardio:
1) Saves time. Most intervals last about 20 minutes in comparison to 1 to 2 hours on the treadmill with old school cardio.
2) Stimulates a greater release of growth hormone. Studies have shown that intense interval training produces growth hormone which build lean muscle mass.
3) Better for your joints. The intervals should be done on alternate days not back to back and I usually recommend for about 3-4 days out of the week. There is also less exposure on the joints because it takes less time to complete.
4) Metabolic disturbance. Interval training increases metabolism and post-exercise oxygen consumption which has been shown to burn fat for 24 hours after the interval bout.
5) Creates variety. Interval training can be done with body weight exercises, on exercise machines, with medicine balls, with weights, and outdoors. Interval training is an effective method that has many tools.