My Secret Love Affair With Cardio [Cardio vs High Intensity Interval Training]

You’ve probably seen or heard the warnings NOT to do cardio exercise and that it’s actually a “myth” you should avoid.

As I was doing my cardio workout today, I was telling myself I needed to set the record straight for you.

I also reveal some secrets about how to use high intensity interval training (HIIT) for maximum fat burning and when I think it does more harm than good.

One thing I’ll say right off is that if you are considering HIIT, then you MUST have good posture and smooth, efficient form with whatever movement you’re doing or you’re going to end up injured, frustrated, and gaining weight on the sidelines!

That’s why I put together the Core Wellness “Do This First” program to reverse damaging posture problems with fundamental exercises that serve as the base for your ongoing exercise programs for weight loss and anti-aging.

You can learn more about the Core Wellness program HERE.

So jump on the elliptical with me for a few minutes and learn some smart exercise strategies that will help you program your body to burn more fat and avoid hurting yourself!

The videography is a bit unorthodox but the message is clear. 

Your Question…What is the most confusing or frustrating thing for you about exercise?  Post a comment and let me know!
Rather than guess, it’s best to use a formula, which is not only more sensible,it has a proven record of success and is more scientific: The 180-Formula. This method also considers physiological rather than just chronological age. To find your maximum aerobic exercise heart rate, first subtract your age from 180. Next, find the best category for your present state (as listed below).
The 180-Formula
1.)    Subtract your age from 180 (180 – age)
2.)    Modify this number by selecting one of the following categories:
a.       If you have, or are recovering from, a major illness (heart disease, any operation, any hospital stay, etc.) or if you are on any regular medication,
   ……………. Subtract 10
b.      If you have not exercised before, or if you have been exercising but have been injured or are regressing in your efforts (not showing much improvement), or if you often get colds or the flu, or if you have allergies,
 …………….. Subtract 5
c.       If you have been exercising for up to two years at least 4 times a week without any significant injury, and you have not had colds or flu more than once or twice a year,
……………… Subtract 0
d.      If you have been exercising for more than two years without any injury, have been making progress, and are a competitive athlete,
……………… Add 5
For example, if you are 30 years old and fit into category b:
            180-30=150, then 150-5=145 beats per minute.  This is called your maximum aerobic exercise heart rate.
In this example, exercising at the heart rate of 145 beats per minute will be highly aerobic, allowing you to develop maximum aerobic function. Exercising at heart rates above this level will add a significant anaerobic component to the workout, and develop your anaerobic system, exemplified by a shift to more sugar and less fat burning. If you prefer to exercise below your max aerobic heart rate, you will still derive good aerobic benefits, but progress at a slightly slower pace.


  1. Great post Steve, interesting stuff. I have been using the gym for years doing cardio and free weights, am fit and healthy and always work with a heart rate monitor. I'm 63 and find that working at the level of 180 – age = 117 (and even if I add the 5 points = 122), it feels incredibly slow and I don't feel that I'm getting any workout at all. I do use interval training and have recently started to run again and love it but is it ok to push beyond the 122 on the intervals and then drop back to 122 for the rest periods? I'm confused.

    • That’s the most common complaint, Sue. Feeling like you’re not getting a workout at that level. As you continue to train with 180-age, you’ll be surprised at how much more work you can do at the same HR. It’s worth sticking with it to build a good aerobic base. You can check out Phil Maffetones website forum and articles at for more info on aerobic training.

      Right now your metabolism is likely trained anaerobically and that’s why you are feeling nothing at the 180-age HR. Some people actually have to start out by walking to keep the HR there.

      Intervals are completely different…you go much harder and may reach 160, 170 or so. The important thing is train recovery back to 180-age. Your time to recover is your outcome.

      Here’s an exerpt from one the articles at Dr. Maffetones site that shows how after training with the 180-age formula, speed and intensity increases so you WILL feel like you’re getting a workout. I know this can be an interesting shift, but it’s one worth considering.

      The MAF Test

      “Once a runner had a maximum aerobic heart rate for training, it was also used to perform the MAF test on a track. This begins with the athlete slowly warming up with much lower intensities, followed by running five miles while maintaining the maximum aerobic heart rate, with each mile split recorded. As the weeks pass, increases in pace are expected, and differences between the first and fifth mile should be less. Below are the results of a 30-year old male runner’s first MAF Test 1, and another recorded four months later (Test 2), all while maintaining a heart rate of 148.

      MAF Test 1
      Mile 1 6:07
      Mile 2 6:11
      Mile 3 6:18
      Mile 4 6:26
      Mile 5 6:37

      MAF Test 2
      Mile 1 5:34
      Mile 2 5:34
      Mile 3 5:37
      Mile 4 5:39
      Mile 5 5:41”

  2. Dear Dr. Hoffman,
    You videos are always a great inspiration and help – thank you very much!
    Yossi Gutmann

  3. Hi Dr Steve,
    Just a quick point, the only true way to find your true max heart rate is to do a test when fresh, such as warming up then accelerating up a long [5 mins] hill, then checking your max heart rate reading on the HRM.
    The calculation formula is just an average, and no one is average!
    I've found over the years that peoples individuals max heart rates can be greatly different from one person to the next and is not dependent on age.
    ie when I was 30 my max pulse was 185 bpm but my training partner who was 3 years older than me could reach 195.
    I think if you are a fast twitch muscle type you can reach a higher max than say someone with more endurance slow twitch muscle type.
    Cheers Rick

    • Thanks Rick, you’re right that everyone has their own metabolic uniqueness. I have just found the 180-age formula works best for people who tend to be overtraining. I see a lot of chronic injuries that clean up when people slow it down for a while to build a good aerobic base. I appreciate your input.

  4. Many thanks for your reply Steve. I'll certainly have a look at the website and work at improving my aerobic fitness in addition to the interval training – bringing my hr down to 180-age. Happy Christmas to you and your family. With metta. Sue

  5. I'm very grateful Steve for your guidance. I've bought and read Dr Maffetone's book and started today on my new regime of building aerobic fitness. I was surprised that it took some fast walking and jogging to get my hr up between 107 – 117 bpm. I thought I was training properly – building up gradually with rest days etc, but I was obviously working anaerobically a lot of the time. I'm now looking forward to training smarter and more effectively, being properly fit. Thank you again. Happy Christmas and may you and your family go from strength to strength in the new year. Sue 

    • Great Sue! Phil’s book is great. I have all of his older versions. I can’t wait to see if he’s changed any ideas since the late 90’s. I think you’ll be surprised at how quickly you’ll see your instensity/speed increase while staying in a max aerobic zone. Keep me posted on your progress!

      Happy New Year!


  6. Hi Steve, Great clip, it's good to hear that Phil's methods are being shared so much. I have been using his methods here in Calgary for over 20 years on hundreds and perhaps now thousands of athletes with great success. One of my triathletes reduced his Ironman time by over 4hours and 18 minutes from 15 hours to 10:42 without doing a single interval above his aerobic threshold over a 6 year period, training aerobically does work and is extremely healthy.
    I would like to add to your comments to enhance your exercise experience and to help you to dial in your optimal training zone even better. I noticed on the video that you were breathing a little bit heavy, I would counsel you to find your "nasal threshold" the point at which you loose the comfort breathing exclusively through your nose.
    Your nasal threshold is intimately linked to your aerobic threshold and is the single most correlate able field test I have found to dial in an athletes aerobic threshold. I find it's a better enhancement of Phils prediction formula and every time I test a person's lactate threshold, and I do hundreds of tests a year, I find their nose predicts their max aerobic heart rate all the time.
    I have written about this in my book "Effortless Exercise" which details how to find your "effortless training Zone" by using your nose. If you combine the nasal method with Phil's 180 formula you'll find that you can give a client more information that they can use while exercising to help them to understand how it "feels" to be aerobic, that's the key. All that's left is for them to dial in that feeling every time they exercise and they find unlimited energy and progression in the long term.
    Your video is well done, however, I would drop your HR and exercise intensity to the point where you can breathe through your nose exclusively and forget about your breathing, then you'll be truly aerobic and your RQ and lactate levels will remain at their base line resting values. You'll also start to experience the real meditative effects when you breath through your nose!
    I loved the video, keep it up,, hope to chat soon!

    • Interesting Grant, thanks for the input. I’ll have to check out your book to learn more. I’ll experiment with my nasal threshold for sure!

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