We all know cardio is good for you, but what is LISS cardio? Even if you know the acronym, you might be wondering how this specific style of exercise can improve your fitness and help you achieve your health goals.
LISS stands for “low intensity steady state” and is a cardio method that is the exact opposite of high intensity interval training (HIIT). Hard and fast HIIT workouts are an effective way to burn fat and build endurance in minimal time, but it’s not the only way to get fitter and leaner. If HIIT is the hare, think of LISS as the turtle – take a slow, steady approach to burning calories and improving cardiovascular health.
The American Heart Association recommends getting 30 – 60 minutes of aerobic exercise, three to four times a week, to improve cardiovascular fitness and reduce the risk of obesity and its adverse health effects. LISS cardio can contribute to this weekly goal to ensure you stay healthy. Plus, it’s the type of exercise you’ll likely support.
Unlike HIIT workouts that are “hitting up” — which use short, intense bouts of exercise followed by periods of rest, LISS is best described as a “slow and low” form of cardiovascular training.
You may also know it as:
- Low Intensity Exercise
- Steady State Training (SST)
- Continuous Cardiovascular Exercise
- Long Distance Slow Training (LDS)
WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS?
Like other forms of exercise, cardio LISS has many health benefits, including better blood circulation, reduced stress, lower risk of heart disease, and better brain function.
Here are some other benefits of LISS cardio:
- Helps burn fat and lose it. Steady-state training improves your body’s ability to use fat for fuel instead of using stored muscle glycogen. Additionally, according to a 2014 study, continuous aerobic exercise is more effective than HIIT in improving fat distribution.
- It is suitable for all levels. Since LISS is easier to perform and gentler on the body, it is suitable for beginners. Intermediate to advanced fitness levels often use it as part of an endurance training program.
- Allows easier recovery. Because you put less stress on your heart and body, you may find yourself recovering faster and easier from LISS.
- This is an effective way to train for endurance events. Exercising at a low intensity for a long time puts less strain on the heart and lungs than a more intense workout. This can be an effective way to prepare for an endurance event.
- It is also ideal for recovery after a hard workout. You can use LISS as a recovery session the day after a high intensity workout.
WHAT IS A LISS WORKOUT?
A big difference between LISS and other workouts is the intensity of the workouts. Heart rate goals can help you measure and understand the intensity of a workout.
The higher your heart rate, the harder your body works (or the greater the intensity of the activity you do). Target maximum heart rate refers to the upper limit of exercise intensity considered safe. This is 220 beats per minute (bpm) minus your age (about 200 bpm at age 20 or about 185 bpm at age 35).
Note that your fitness level affects the types of activities you can or cannot do without raising your heart rate above a certain threshold. For people with a lower fitness level, slow jogging could raise heart rate well above the LISS exercise threshold; for fitter people, however, jogging might increase heart rate to the LISS exercise goal.
LISS WORKOUT IDEAS
There are so many types of LISS you can incorporate into your fitness routine! The good thing about this type of cardio is that there are so many options to choose from that you won’t get bored repeating the same type of low intensity cardio.
The types of LISS cardio you can do are-
- Walking at a moderate pace
- Cycling regularly on a spin bike or outdoors
- Rowing at a steady speed
- Using cardio equipment at the gym, such as an elliptical trainer, to steady, moderate pace
- Recreational activities that can be done at full capacity, such as skateboarding or surfing.
The advantage of LISS is that it can easily adapt to your lifestyle! You can choose whatever you want if you are able to do it at a steady moderate pace for about 30 to 45 minutes.
WHY IS LISS GOOD FOR BURNING FAT?
To metabolize fat, the body needs oxygen, and the lower the intensity, the more oxygen the body has available to break down fat. When you jog or sprint, less oxygen is available, which means your body will use other energy sources, such as carbohydrates, for energy instead of fat.
Keep in mind, however, that HIIT still burns fat, in addition to helping with muscle adaptations, it also burns more calories in a short time, and so if you can’t find time for a LISS workout complete, then HIIT is a great alternative.
LISS VS. HIIT: WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE?
While the goal of LISS exercise is to keep your heart rate stable and slightly elevated for longer periods of time, HIIT workouts are designed to raise your heart rate much higher for shorter periods of time. Intensity is the main difference. During a HIIT workout, you should aim to get your heart rate to around 85% of your target maximum heart rate.
Other differences include:
- Time: Compared to a HIIT workout that takes 30 minutes, a LISS workout that provides the same benefits (in terms of energy expenditure or calories burned) will take significantly longer.
- Speed: LISS stimulation is performed at the same pace all the time, while HIIT alternates periods of intense exercise with short periods of recovery.
- Attention and Concentration: Required During LISS workouts, you typically perform the same activity over a long period of time, which for the most part does not require high concentration. During HIIT workouts, you may need to pay more attention and focus more on the progressive movements and the intensity of your work.
HEALTH BENEFITS OF LISS TRAINING
LISS, like other forms of low to moderate intensity exercise, has many health benefits. It may help reduce the risk of high blood pressure, stroke, obesity, diabetes, and several types of cancer. It may also improve muscle strength, aerobic capacity, mental health, cognitive function, and sleep. A program of stationary exercise (cycling) in a group of otherwise inactive college students found that both produced similar aerobic and anaerobic benefits.
IMPACT ON THE BODY.
- Post-workout recovery is usually faster.
- Helps build endurance for longer workouts.
- May help people achieve and maintain a healthy weight.
ARE LISS WORKOUTS GOOD FOR WEIGHT LOSS?
Steady-state workouts such as LISS may be beneficial for weight loss, but you may need to log more time spent sweating to get results comparable to those you would get with routines intense exercises, such as HIIT, to help with weight loss. The reason is simple: it takes much longer to burn the same number of calories with LISS than with HIIT.
A meta-analysis of over 160 exercise studies found similar fat and weight loss with steady-state aerobic workouts like LISS and interval training like HIIT, if people burned the same number of calories. To be simple and easy to do and, given its low intensity nature, it is easier to recover from. Using it as an easy way to start getting in shape or incorporating it as part of an integrated training and nutrition strategy is fantastic.
WHO ARE LISS WORKOUTS BEST FOR?
If your goal is to improve your aerobic fitness and you have time for longer workouts, then LISS can be a great option. LISS is also a smart way to start exercising if you are overweight or obese or have a sedentary lifestyle. It’s also a more accessible type of exercise for people with knee or back issues because it tends to put less stress on the joints than higher-impact workouts.
While there is some risk of overuse injuries with LISS, especially if you do the same type of activity all the time, the risks of being inactive are far greater, Ross says.
Lack of time would be the main reason to consider HIIT instead of LISS workouts. It can take two or three times longer with LISS activity to burn as many calories as in a HIIT workout.
GETTING STARTED WITH LISS
A wide variety of activities can count as LISS if you progress at a steady pace for an extended period. The best way to find a LISS workout that’s right for you is to think about your hobbies and things that you can easily fit into your schedule and lifestyle.
For people who like to be outdoors, activities like hiking or paddle boarding may be suitable. For others, doing things around the house like gardening, yard work, or shovelling snow can also be considered LISS activities.
Many other forms of exercise are considered LISS or moderate-intensity workouts. These include:
- Walk 3 km in 30 minutes
- Cycle 4 km in 15 minutes
- Walk up and down stairs for 15 minutes
- Dance fast for 30 minutes
- Do water aerobics for 30 minutes
- Swim for 20 minutes
- Gardening for 30 minutes
- Getting around in a wheelchair for 30 minutes
- Shooting a basket for 30 minutes
- Jumping rope for 15 minutes
The key to success in any training routine is to start slowly and gradually increase the duration or intensity.
Whether you’re completely new to exercise or want to add LISS to the mix of your existing training habits, it’s good to start with a shorter workout, around 30 minutes, and gradually move to longer sessions. 60 minutes, says Ross. If all your workouts are LISS or other forms of moderate-intensity exercise, you should aim for 30–60-minute workouts most days of the week.
SAMPLE LISS WORKOUTS TO TRY
Here are some sample LISS workouts to try –
- Walking or “rucking”: Walk for 30 to 60 minutes. Once you’ve got this down, try “rucking.” That’s walking with a weighted backpack. You can start with a pack weighted with around 20 pounds.
- Walking or rucking LISS intervals: Try going a little faster for one minute, then a little slower for two minutes, for 10 rounds. You can use intervals with LISS if you work at 50 to 65 percent of your maximum target heart rate the whole time instead of pushing yourself to the max like you would with HIIT.
- Outside carry: Grab a heavy object, head out the door, and carry it one lap around your house. Rest as needed, repeating for 5 to 10 rounds.
IS CARDIO LISS FOR YOU?
LISS cardio is a good addition to most fitness routines as it is generally safe and suitable for all fitness levels. If you can easily fit a 45–60-minute cardio workout into your schedule and prefer a steady pace rather than increasing intensity, then LISS may be the right choice for you.
If you need to train for an endurance event such as a 10k run, half marathon, triathlon, or bike ride, you’ll likely use stationary cardio several times a week. This is called the principle of specificity, which means that you train in the same format in which you will compete.
Your fitness goals will determine the balance of what you need to be able to look and perform the way you want. Everyone is different, so finding that balance might take a little trial and error, which is ultimately worth it when you find what works best for you. It is the same with a split training program. Different principles of training will have different outcomes. The idea is for you to reach your desired goal. This principle is used by the Institute of motion (IOM) in their 4Q model. It is well researched and back up by science. Highly recommended for folks above 40 who are looking at weight loss.