While we may have gotten to grips with HIIT , up to speed with VO2 max and found the best way to keep our BPMs on track, there’s now another fitness acronym that’s making the rounds, and it comes in the form of LISS - otherwise known as low intensity steady state cardio.
What does it mean exactly? Think of it as the complete antithesis to HIIT. Instead of short sharp bursts of exercise followed by periods of recovery, LISS is more about maintaining the same intensity for a set period of time. Although not new, it’s seen a rise in popularity perhaps most notably because of its incorporation into Kayla Itsines’ Bikini Body Training Guide. Writing a blog post on the concept, she describes its benefits going “far beyond just ‘burning calories,’” to make it an essential part of an effective and sustainable workout plan.
Why is it important and which exercises are LISS-specific and which ones aren’t? Here’s what you need to know.
It can be done anywhere
What qualifies as LISS? “Steady pace, aerobic exercise that lasts longer than 30 minutes,” explains personal trainer Dan Roberts , meaning it needn't be restricted to just a gym or studio. Cheap and easy to incorporate into your existing fitness regime, his top recommendations include walking, jogging, rowing, cycling, using the cross trainer and skating.
What doesn’t qualify as LISS? “Any activities that are so demanding on your cardiovascular system that you can't hold a conversation,” points out Dan as a useful rule of thumb.
It suits all fitness levels
Due to being low intensity nature, it’s refreshingly universal in its appeal. “It’s for everyone and for those who are less fit or haven't trained in a while,” highlights Dan. “Doing a medium paced jog or a long bike ride (classic examples of LISS) are ideal as they don't shock your central nervous system and connective tissue as much as hardcore HIIT training does.”
What’s a good starting point? “I would advise for most people that for every two sessions of HIIT a week, do one session of LISS,” advises Dan. This can also be adapted to best suit your specific aims - particularly when it comes to fat loss. “If you want to maximise fat loss, then it's quite well known in the fitness industry that doing both (HIIT first then LISS straight after) is better than just doing one or the other. So HIIT for 30 minutes then 30 minutes LISS. If you do this daily, you will look more toned and firmer in just 7 days.”
It puts less strain on your body
“It’s easier to recover from, so can be done daily,” explains Dan. “There’s also less of a chance of tendon and muscle injuries,” - a particularly valuable attribute if your current fitness routine is HIIT heavy at the moment. Plus on the whole, LISS workouts are easier to sustain in the long-run too. “ Research says that if you train hard, you often don't stick to it,” says Dan, “So LISS is more likely to be done on a regular basis.”
It provides choice
This isn’t case of HIIT vs LISS, but rather using both in combination to fit your individual fitness goals and schedules. “Both forms of exercise have their benefits and have been shown to improve cardiovascular health, blood pressure, anaerobic and aerobic fitness levels and insulin sensitivity,” explains Reebok Ambassador, Dr Hazel Wallace . “In terms of which one is superior to the other, it really comes down to personal preference,” she says. “LISS is less physically demanding, less likely to cause injuries, can be carried out more frequently, and is less likely to impact on other forms of your training than HIIT will. However it is more time consuming and therefore requires a greater time commitment than HIIT.”
“For me, HIIT suits my style of training and my busy lifestyle. I don’t have time for 1 hour bike rides or a 5 mile jog, but I can squeeze in a 20 minute HIIT workout in the morning,” she adds. “I love that post workout feeling that HIIT gives me, but I also appreciate the benefits of LISS and I use it in my training when my body needs a rest from the gym.” Each has its place.