Zone 2 aerobic conditioning, also known as steady-state cardio, has gained significant attention for its profound benefits on longevity and overall health. Dr. Peter Attia and Dr. Iñigo San-Millán have extensively discussed the importance of this training zone, emphasizing its role in metabolic health, cardiovascular fitness, and mitochondrial function. Adding to this, Michol Dalcourt’s insights on S.I.S.S. (Steady-State Interval Steady-State) training provide a nuanced approach to maximizing the benefits of Zone 2 exercise. In this blog, we’ll explore the benefits of Zone 2 training, how to accurately assess it, the recommended weekly duration, the most common forms of Zone 2 exercise, and the unique advantages of incorporating S.I.S.S. training.

What is Zone 2 Aerobic Conditioning?

Zone 2 aerobic conditioning is a low-intensity exercise performed at a steady pace, where the primary fuel source is fat. It is characterized by a heart rate that allows for prolonged exercise without significant fatigue, typically ranging between 60-70% of your maximum heart rate (MHR). This zone is often referred to as the “fat-burning zone” because it optimally utilizes fat for energy.

Benefits of Zone 2 Aerobic Conditioning

1. Improved Metabolic Health

Zone 2 training enhances the body’s ability to oxidize fat, improving insulin sensitivity and reducing the risk of metabolic syndrome. By increasing the efficiency of fat metabolism, it helps maintain stable blood sugar levels and prevents insulin resistance.

2. Cardiovascular Health

Steady-state cardio at Zone 2 strengthens the heart muscle, increases stroke volume (the amount of blood the heart pumps per beat), and improves overall cardiovascular efficiency. These adaptations reduce the risk of heart disease and improve circulation.

3. Mitochondrial Function

Mitochondria, the powerhouses of the cell, play a crucial role in energy production. Zone 2 training promotes mitochondrial biogenesis (the creation of new mitochondria) and enhances mitochondrial efficiency, which is essential for long-term health and longevity.

4. Sustainable Energy

Unlike high-intensity training, Zone 2 exercise can be sustained for extended periods, making it accessible and practical for daily routines. It provides a steady energy output without the significant fatigue associated with higher intensity workouts.

Assessing Zone 2 Training

Why Heart Rate Formulas Aren’t Precise

The traditional method of calculating maximum heart rate (MHR) using formulas like 220 minus age is often imprecise due to individual variations in fitness levels, genetics, and heart rate response. Instead, more personalized approaches are recommended:

1. Lactate Threshold Testing

Lactate threshold testing measures the point at which lactate begins to accumulate in the blood. This method provides a precise heart rate range for Zone 2 training. However, it requires specialized equipment and is often performed in a lab setting.

2. Talk Test

A simpler method is the “talk test.” During Zone 2 exercise, you should be able to maintain a conversation without gasping for breath. This practical approach helps gauge the appropriate intensity level.

3. Ventilatory Threshold

Another method is to observe your breathing rate. In Zone 2, breathing should be steady and controlled, not labored or heavy. This correlates with the ventilatory threshold, where breathing rate increases noticeably.

4. VO2 Max Testing

VO2 Max testing measures the maximum amount of oxygen your body can utilize during exercise and provides comprehensive data on your aerobic capacity. This test can accurately determine your training zones, including Zone 2, ensuring that you are training at the correct intensity. Although typically conducted in a lab with specialized equipment, VO2 Max testing is the gold standard for assessing aerobic fitness and tailoring training programs.

How Much Zone 2 Activity is Needed Weekly?

Experts like Dr. Peter Attia recommend aiming for at least 3-4 hours of Zone 2 training per week. This can be broken down into shorter sessions, such as 30-60 minutes of steady-state cardio, spread across several days. Consistency is key to reaping the long-term benefits of Zone 2 conditioning.

Common Forms of Zone 2 Training

1. Walking or Hiking

Brisk walking or hiking at a steady pace is an excellent way to maintain Zone 2 intensity, especially for those new to exercise or with joint concerns.

2. Cycling

Outdoor cycling or using a stationary bike allows for easy control of intensity, making it a popular choice for Zone 2 training.

3. Swimming

Swimming at a moderate, steady pace provides a full-body workout and is gentle on the joints.

4. Rowing

Using a rowing machine at a controlled pace is another effective form of Zone 2 exercise, engaging multiple muscle groups.

5. Elliptical Training

Elliptical machines provide a low-impact option for steady-state cardio, suitable for maintaining the desired heart rate range.

Incorporating S.I.S.S. Training

Michol Dalcourt’s S.I.S.S. (Steady-State Interval Steady-State) training is an innovative approach that blends steady-state and interval training. This method involves performing steady-state cardio, followed by short, high-intensity intervals, and then returning to steady-state. This hybrid model offers several benefits:

1. Enhanced Fat Oxidation

The intervals increase metabolic rate, enhancing fat oxidation even after the workout.

2. Cardiovascular Efficiency

The alternating intensities improve cardiovascular function and endurance more efficiently than steady-state alone.

3. Reduced Boredom

Varied intensity levels keep the workouts engaging and can help prevent mental fatigue.


Zone 2 aerobic conditioning offers numerous benefits for longevity, from improved metabolic health and cardiovascular function to enhanced mitochondrial efficiency. By accurately assessing your Zone 2 intensity and incorporating at least 3-4 hours of this training weekly, you can significantly boost your long-term health. Adding S.I.S.S. training, as advocated by Michol Dalcourt, can further enhance these benefits by improving fat oxidation and cardiovascular efficiency. Whether through walking, cycling, swimming, rowing, or using an elliptical, Zone 2 exercise is accessible and sustainable for individuals at all fitness levels. Embrace the steady-state, and invest in your future health today.


  • Attia, P. (n.d.). [Website/Podcast/Book]. Peter Attia MD.
  • San-Millán, I. (n.d.). [Research/Publications]. University of Colorado.
  • Dalcourt, M. (n.d.). [Research/Publications]. Institute of Motion.

This blog provides a comprehensive overview of the benefits of Zone 2 aerobic conditioning, practical assessment methods, and suggestions for incorporating it into your routine, all backed by expert insights from Dr. Peter Attia, Dr. Iñigo San-Millán, and Michol Dalcourt.



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