Unless you are very new to the fitness world, you know that there is a natural ebb and flow of things. Concepts, ideologies, and preferences are as varied as there are people in this world. It can be difficult for a person to parcel out which is the best approach. Perhaps it is more appropriate to consider instead which is the best approach for you as an individual. Low-intensity steady-state cardiovascular activity, otherwise known as LIIS cardio, is an entirely different school of thought.
High-intensity interval training, also called HIIT, is the polar opposite of LISS and has grown in popularity in recent years. Let’s jump into a deep dive of what LISS cardio entails, pros and cons, as well as the major differences in the two schools of thought.
Benefits of LISS Cardio
The benefits of LISS training are many. First, if you are new to fitness, HIIT training can be frustrating and demoralizing. In HIIT training, you are bringing your heart rate up to a high rate for shorter bursts of time. The intensity is so high you are somewhere between 80-95% of your maximum heart rate. You then shift to an easy portion of the workout for recovery. In LISS cardio training, you are expected to keep your heart rate at 50-65% of your maximum heart rate.
LISS aids in fat burning and weight loss. It makes sense. For years people have been talking about HIIT as a calorie-burning workout. It gets your heart revving and can have the same impact on calorie burn. However, LISS is likely to keep a slower burn going long after the workout has ended.
LISS workouts are also easier to stick with. Due to the lower intensity, you are far less likely to get burnout while participating in LISS activities. It makes sense. If pedaling for thirty minutes feels hard every time you do it, it is easy to skip a workout if you are feeling ill or a lack of motivation. Studies have shown that taken a less stressful and strenuous approach to exercise leaves people more likely to stick with the program long term.
There is also a lower chance of injury with lesser intensity workouts. Your joints and muscles will leave less recovery time, leaving you free to work out the very next day (or a second time that same day!).
Lastly, LISS cardio training is easy to do with a workout buddy, which helps with accountability. When running or cycling hard, it can be difficult to communicate with a workout buddy. Engagement is easier on an easy run or brisk walk so it can double as a social activity.
Types of LISS Cardio
Most frequently, LISS training is associated with exercises and activities you can do for an extended period of time at an easy pace. For example, running, cycling and swimming lend themselves perfectly to LISS cardio. Even brisk walking and elliptical workouts are conducive to LISS workouts.
If you are an avid runner, you are familiar with the LSD run. An acronym for long, slow distance, the idea is to move considerably slower than your race or tempo pace to work the lactic acid out of your body. Also, it’s a great way to work on cardiovascular sustainment. If you are going full blast through every workout, that can be hard on your body. The LSD brings balance to your running regime.
How Long Should You Do LISS Cardio?
Technically, LISS cardio can be as short as 30 minutes. However, most proponents of this type of exercise agree that longer sessions yield greater results. Many programs call for 60-minute workouts. Runners often will set out to gently run or cycle for 90 minutes or more, depending on where they are in a training cycle.
When distance training, “time on feet” can be helpful in building stamina, even if the exercise is easy from a cardio perspective.
What Is Considered a LISS Cardio Workout?
If you are still confused, let’s spell it out for you. A LISS workout is anytime you are engaging in sustained cardiovascular activity, with a very low heart rate, for a longer period of time. Longer is relative to what your normal exercise regime looks like. For example, if my normal runs are 30-40 minutes, if I am doing a LISS workout I would run at a significantly slower pace for 60-90 minutes.
If you are brand new to the fitness world, a 30-minute brisk walk would qualify as a LISS workout.
Can I Do LISS Every Day?
If you are new to exercise, be sure speak to your general practitioner and to take it easy when starting out. Having said that, you can absolutely do LISS every day. That is one of the beautiful things about LISS cardio! You don’t need a lot of recovery time to engage in this activity.
If you are working toward specific fitness goals, you may find LISS fits into your workout regime naturally. If you are training for a half marathon, for example, you may work out five times each week.
One workout will probably be speed or hill work, one workout tempo, a couple of runs might be at 75% perceived effort, and the last would probably be a longer run at a steady and sustained effort. This is especially true if you are time goals heading toward a goal race.
HIIT vs. LISS
There is a reason why in the beginning of the blog that it was stated that personal preference should be considered when weighing the benefits of each type of cardio. If fitness was a one size fits all, there would be no need for so many different kinds. Each person’s fitness journey takes them down a path unique to him or her, as it should be.
Questions to ask yourself as you decide which road you wish to take include: What are my goals? What is my current level of fitness? How much time do I wish to devote to exercise each day? Do I want exercise to be a solitary or social journey or a combination of both?
The answers to these questions will help guide you to your perfect match. Good luck!