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Keep the Calories Burning: Hold-Steady Cardio

Interval training can be daunting, since upping your speed means pushing past your comfort zone. While mixing sprints into your runs may torch tons of calories, it can be hard on your joints, requiring a bit more recovery after your sweat session. This is where steady-state cardio comes into play. It's great for recovery; moving at a manageable pace for a sustained period actually helps repair your workout-weary muscles — especially the day after a full-body weight-training session.

Today's workout in our Better-Body Challenge is 30 minutes of cardio keeping your heart rate in a moderate zone. The good news is that some people even find steady-state cardio meditative. You just find your pace or level of effort, and go!

To determine what moderate intensity means for you, try the talk test. If you're new to cardio and can recite a poem while exercising, then you're working at a moderate pace. If you're fit, moderate intensity will mean you need to struggle a bit at the end of each line. Or you can also use the Rate of Perceived Exertion scale, which places different intensity levels on a scale from one to 10, with one representing no exertion and 10 being an intensity you could not sustain for more than one minute. Moderate level is around a six on the RPE scale.

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Here are some ideas for your steady-state cardio workout:

  • Walk fast and try some hills — your pace may slow on the incline, but your effort should remain steady.
  • Run at a moderate pace.
  • Dance! Take a Zumba class, try some cardio hip-hop, or experiment with belly dancing.
  • Bike either on mostly flat terrain or a stationary bike at a manageable pace.
  • Test out the elliptical, and work your upper and lower body at the same time. Go both forward and backward.
  • Sit down and work out with a rowing machine.
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