By now we’ve all heard of HIIT—High-Intensity Interval Training, which is credited with helping devotees burn an impressive amount of fat for the time they spend working out. HIIT is a natural fit for our fast-paced, results-driven lifestyles, and even if we’re not doing HIIT per se, it’s natural to feel like we didn’t really workout unless we’re not dripping in sweat by the end of it.
Fortunately, that’s not entirely true. Our bodies benefit from low-intensity exercises, too—a fact that’s catching on thanks to a new trend in working out: LISS, or Low-Intensity Steady State/Sustained State.
“[LISS] means doing light cardio — 50 to 60 percent of your maximum heart rate — at a consistent pace, usually for long durations,” according to Alex VanHouten, National Development Specialist and Master Trainer at Lifetime Fitness Centennial. Power walking or using the bike, stair-stepper, or elliptical at a slow or moderate, steady rate are examples of common types of LISS. Swimming and cross-country skiing count, too! The idea is to do something active for 45-60 minutes but not at full force.
You may be thinking, well, of course, walking is better than doing nothing! But LISS is actually more than better-than-nothing. Debora Warner, founder of New York City’s treadmill studio Mile High Rub Club explains, “LISS is good for endurance—it helps build up mitochondria in cells and promotes oxygen delivery.” Moreover, LISS can help keep us trim, a notion echoed by Dr. Michael Fredericso, of Stanford University’s School of Medicine: “As you exercise for long periods at about 60 percent of your maximal effort, that’s when you really start to burn fat.” It’s important to note, however, that LISS is not the best workout for losing stored fat: “It’s very effective at metabolizing fat for energy consumption by the body. However, it is horrible at accessing and breaking down stored fat,” according to Jake Peterson, a NASM-certified and Precision Nutrition-certified trainer. This simply means that LISS is best accompanied by other styles of exercise–more on that below.
Regularly engaging in LISS has long term results. VanHouten explains, “[LISS] helps the body become conditioned over time to use fat as a fuel source better at your next workout.” Speaking of your next workout, LISS is a perfect way to spend a recovery day—you’re staying active without putting a lot of impact on your joints or putting excessive stress on your muscles. The great thing about LISS is that it can be done anywhere you can walk—plus, who can deny the stress relieving power of a long walk?
Like all styles of workout, however, LISS is not the be-all-end-all of workouts. Unfortunately, a workout diet of pure LISS may lead to muscle loss, Peterson says, and you won’t be getting the same cardiovascular benefits of higher-intensity cardio. Switching up your workouts, or cross-training, is your best bet for experiencing the cornucopia of healthy benefits that come with exercise. A well-rounded week of working out may include a few days of LISS, a few days of yoga or pilates, and a day or two of strength-training. Experienced athletes may do LISS every day or as a warm-up to higher-intensity workouts.
A final pointer about LISS: If you’re not switching up your routine—or if you don’t absolutely love long walks—you’re likely to get bored, especially since LISS can be time-consuming. It’s smart to change up your LISS activities, enjoy them with your workout buddies, and do higher-intensity workouts between your LISS days.
Bottom line: LISS is a highly beneficial style of workout to help you improve endurance, boost circulation, recover on non-gym days, and relieve stress. While it helps the body metabolize fat, it shouldn’t be your only go-to if you’re interested in losing a significant amount of weight. LISS is best interspersed with different styles of higher-intensity workouts and strength training.
Have you tried LISS?
Related: Is Exercise the Best Anti-Ager?
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Photo: Alexander Ronsdorf via Unplash