Exercise Hit or Miss? The Better Question is: HIIT or LISS?

HIIT workouts (High Intensity Interval Training) have been the favorite buzz word in fitness for several years. There is a myriad of evidence as to why these short-burst but stressful routines have positive effects on the body.

But is this style of workout the best choice for all exercisers and all the time? An option to consider for many fitness applications is actually the inverse of HIIT – known as LISS.

What is LISS?

LISS (low-intensity, steady-state) involves performing a cardio activity at a lower intensity for 30 to 60 minutes. These activities usually involve running, biking, walking, swimming, etc.

It’s appropriate for beginners.

If you shudder at the idea of hardcore sprints or lifting weights until your muscles give out, LISS is a great way to get back into the habit of exercise without having to jump on to the “No Pain – No Gain” grind. You determine the level of moderate exercise that’s right for you and make improvements at your own, comfortable pace.

It burns calories and fat.

A greater percentage of the calories burned during LISS workouts will come from fat. We use stored fat and carbohydrates to fuel exercise. When the intensity of the exercise increases, however, the body burns less fat and more carbohydrates. LISS puts your body in the “fat burning zone.”

LISS activities are likely to be safer and more fun.

During this time of pandemic reality, exercising outdoors is demonstrably safer. Don’t just agonize on a treadmill sprint in the gym. Try hiking, walking, running, biking, roller blading, cross country skiing, kayaking, snowshoeing or any number of other cardio-friendly sports.  Getting fresh air while you exercise will likely improve your mood and keep you away from possible contagion. And since the intensity of a LISS workout is lower, you can carry on a conversation with an exercise buddy.

It relieves stress.

Though exercise is generally a potent stress buster, hard workouts actually produce cortisol (a stress hormone), taxing the body and mind like when you are rushing to meet a deadline. LISS relieves stress without adding to that burden.

It aids in recovery.

A low intensity workout is best for your body after a strenuous strength training workout or intense cardio day. LISS gets your heart pumping blood throughout your entire body, sending nutrients to heal any damage incurred from an intense workout and clearing out lactic acid and other metabolic waste products. 

Who Should Do LISS?

The short answer: EVERYONE! If you’re new to exercise or just getting back into it, starting with LISS will help you slowly increase your fitness levels without risking the injuries or over-exertion that can crop up with more intense workouts. If you’re a fitness junkie, you still need LISS in your well-balanced workout routine for cardiovascular training and recovery—not to mention the stress-reduction and mental health benefits.

How to Do LISS Properly

This is the best part: Whether you love running, walking, hiking, swimming— there’s no set type of exercise that’s best for LISS. Plus, you don’t need an expensive private trainer or fancy app to get going. All you have to do is start somewhere. Choose your exercise activity and make it happen!