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3 amazing steady-state cardio exercises to work into your fitness routine

man on treadmill

The endless rows and rows of cardio equipment at the gym are pretty standard — from treadmills to exercise bikes. Although you’re likely to see the same equipment at nearly any gym, there are endless types of cardio you can do on each machine. From high-intensity interval training (HIIT) to steady-state cardio, changing up your cardio workouts helps to keep things interesting while also maximizing your fitness. Below, learn why you should incorporate steady-state cardio into your routine and which exercises to try.

What is steady-state cardio?

a man on a treadmill
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Steady-state cardio refers to a “steady state” of the heart during exercise for at least five minutes. Unlike other forms of cardio that vary in intensity, steady-state cardio maintains a similar intensity throughout the entire duration of the workout. You may also hear steady-state cardio, referred to as “zone 2 training,” which refers to the heart-rate zone maintained during the workout.

This means you’ll exert the same amount of energy throughout the workout. While it can vary, most steady-state cardio exercises keep your heart rate around 45 to 65% of its maximum capacity throughout the workout. Many people who do steady-state cardio don’t even realize there is a name for this type of exercise!

Benefits of steady-state cardioMan on exercise bike with others

Incorporating steady-state cardio into your workouts offers many benefits, especially for people who are new to working out. Cardio, in general, is effective for fat loss, but steady-state cardio specifically is very effective because it is one that a wide range of people can stick to consistently.

In comparison, high-intensity interval training (HIIT) is also a great form of interval cardio that can keep your body challenged. However, some people find that HIIT training can be too taxing on the body or be difficult to commit to regularly. For this reason, adding both HIIT and steady-state cardio days into your workout plan is a great way to keep your workouts varied.

Fat loss is only one of the many benefits of steady-state cardio. In addition, for those who have injuries or painful chronic conditions, steady-state cardio offers a lower-intensity exercise when compared to interval training. It can also help you build up cardio endurance and strengthen the heart, and it can be an important part of a self-care routine for your mental health as well.

Types of steady-state cardio

Man walking in nature with backpack
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Many people find that repeating the same cardio routine can quickly become boring. If you’re on a mission to create a life-long habit of cardio exercise, frequently changing the type of cardio you do regularly is the best way to keep yourself motivated. The key is to experiment with many forms of cardio until you find the type you personally enjoy.


Walking is one of the best forms of steady-state cardio, which can be enjoyed indoors or outdoors. Walking outdoors with a buddy is a great way to make cardio a social overlap as a social connection while also enjoying Vitamin D. When walking indoors on a treadmill, reading a book, listening to music, or watching videos on your phone can help pass the time during steady-state cardio. Incline walks, such as the popular 12-3-30 workout, also maintain a steady-state heart rate.


A light jog can also be classified as a steady-state cardio exercise as long as you keep an eye on your heart rate (usually between 120 and 150 beats per minute). To do this, you’ll need to maintain the same speed throughout the jog instead of varying your speeds as you would in a race. This can be easier to monitor on the treadmill where the pace is pre-set. Jogging outside can be more challenging to maintain a consistent pace, but it is possible.


Are you getting tired of walking or jogging? Give indoor or outdoor cycling a try. This low-impact exercise can effectively burn calories and help improve your cardiovascular health. Many gyms also offer cycling classes in a group setting.

Steady-state cardio exercise duration

Man jogging on pavement
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The duration of steady-state cardio you should aim for depends on your goal. Aim for at least 30 to 60 minutes of steady-state cardio daily if you’re looking to enter a caloric deficit for weight loss. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends adults get at least 150 minutes of aerobic activity per week for general physical and heart health.

Wearing a fitness tracker such as an Apple Watch can make it easier to monitor your heart during exercise. But if you want to try steady-state cardio without a tracker, remember that steady-state cardio is often described as a “6 out of 10” in terms of intensity. This means it’s taxing enough to be challenging but not taxing enough that you should be unable to maintain a conversation during the workout.

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Emily Caldwell
Emily is a full time freelance writer with a special focus on health, fitness, lifestyle, food, and nutrition topics. She…
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