Over the last few years, there has been a spike in the interest surrounding LISS workouts among those in the fitness community, particularly on social media. LISS, which stands for Low Intensity Steady State exercise, is a form of cardio exercise that has grown in popularity due to a number of reasons, such as the fact that it is free, relatively easy, and can be done in a variety of different ways.
LISS is best understood in the context of what is essentially the opposite form of exercise, HIIT. HIIT stands for High Intensity Interval Training, and is centred around doing short bursts of high intensity exercise, with short recovery periods in between. HIIT has previously been the more popular of the two due to its reputation for being better at burning fat. This happens because the intensity of HIIT exercises causes your heart rate to increase faster, which means it will take longer to return to normal, and will therefore keep burning fat even after the exercise has finished. This is sometimes referred to as the “afterburn” effect.
While HIIT regimens generally do not exceed 15 or 20 minutes, LISS exercises by their very nature require about an hour or more if you really want to feel the benefits. Examples of LISS exercises include hiking, swimming, or cycling at a steady pace without stopping. Although LISS can be particularly effective for people who are only beginning to exercise, as well as those who are recovering from an injury, it is recommended for athletes of all levels and disciplines.
Of course, the term “low intensity” can be interpreted in different ways by different people, but if you want to get the most out of a LISS workout, you want to maintain a heart rate of around 50% of you maximum beats-per-minute, which you can calculate here.
Despite the fact that HIIT has the reputation of helping people lose weight, a combination of HIIT and LISS exercises will be more effective if this is your goal. This is because your body uses two forms of metabolism to burn fat, aerobic and anaerobic. During anaerobic, or high-intensity, workouts, your body’s demand for oxygen exceeds supply. Fat will continue burning after you stop moving, but it won’t burn as efficiently. Aerobic exercise means your body has enough oxygen to spare to improve the rate of fat-burning by about 13 times, although it will stop soon after the exercise has ended.
LISS on its own is a good way to improve your overall health, as it is easier, safer, and more enjoyable than HIIT, but won’t have a dramatic effect on your skill or fitness levels anytime soon. But if you have a very specific goal, such as getting better at a particular sport, HIIT is much more appropriate for taking your game to the next level. However, it is far less enjoyable (for most people) and carries a much greater risk of injury. Whether you should focus on LISS or HIIT depends on the goals you are hoping to achieve, and if weight management is your ultimate aim, then using a combination of the two is the most effective way forward.