5 Reasons To Consider Swapping Out Your HIIT For LISS

It's a gentler approach to exercise with just-as-effective results!

Image: iStock

Can’t stand the thought of attending an all-out boot camp-style training session? New research has surfaced giving us the a-ok to skip ’em. Instead, moving towards a gentler approach with just-as-effective results, the new LISS—which is an acronym for Low-Intensity Sustained State—style workout regime is here to get and keep you fit while having you barely break a sweat.
We interviewed Exercise Physiologist, PT and Pilates Instructor Sarah King about this much-preferred workout trend and how to incorporate it into your current regime whilst still staying on top of your health and fitness goals.

So, what exactly does LISS actually mean?

LISS stands for low-intensity steady state cardio, and generally includes activities like walking, a light jog, swimming, or cycling, but at a controlled and light pace. If you’re tracking your heart rate, you should aim for about 40% – 55% of your estimated maximum heart rate to sit in the LISS zone. This equates to a pace where you can comfortably carry on a conversation with someone, and your breathing is only slightly elevated.

Does this type of workout still effectively benefit the body in any way?

A common misconception is that exercise has to be intense in order to be effective, but that’s just simply not the case. If you have a high-stress job and are running on minimal sleep, the last thing your body needs is further stress from HIIT training! It’s well known that athletes are at a higher risk of injury when they’re under high physical or psychological stress, so adjusting your training can actually benefit your body by keeping you moving instead of sidelined with a sprain or strain. A light jog at the end of a long day can help calm the nervous system to promote better sleep, while still strengthening your heart, lungs, muscles, and bones.

Image via iStock

Who else are LISS workout regimes good for?

Low-intensity cardio is good for everyone but especially great for those who are new to exercise or recovering from an illness or injury. This is because most forms of LISS, like walking or stationary cycling, are low impact and give us all the cardiovascular benefits of exercise without over-taxing the body. Some of these benefits include protection against cardiovascular disease, better weight management, enhanced mood and improved sleep.

Are these types of exercise programs good for mental health?

Think of this style of a workout as moving meditation; you might not be drenched in sweat by the end, but it will benefit your mood and lower your stress levels. Research shows exercise can help prevent and treat many mental health conditions by boosting feel-good chemicals in the body, and giving us a sense of achievement because we’ve accomplished something small that has big benefits.

Can someone who is pregnant benefit more so from this type of routine?

I encourage many of my pregnant clients to take up LISS cardio, especially as they enter their third trimester. This is because the hormone relaxin loosens ligaments, making joints less stable in high-intensity situations. However, it’s usually a natural transition as the extra weight from a growing baby makes long walks or a gentle swim a lot more enticing than a hard run. Additionally, if you’re recovering from illness or injury, a slow and steady approach to regaining your fitness is definitely the way to go to, as going too hard too soon may only set you back further. It’s important to remember your heart, lungs, muscles, and bones need time to adapt, repair and become stronger.

So for the rest of us, should we incorporate LISS style training into a routine that also includes more intense training, or can we still see benefits from only doing a LISS type regime?

Just like your diet, it’s important to mix up your workout routine as each type of training has its own benefits. Ideally, you should aim for a mixture of low, moderate and high-intensity cardio exercise throughout the week, add in two strength training sessions, and one or two core and flexibility workouts to keep your body in tip-top shape.

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