Low-Intensity Workouts - Are They As Good As HIIT?

For years, high-intensity interval training (HIIT) workouts have dominated the fitness world. The short-interval, fast-blast element of HIIT is attractive to the cardio-busting crew.

Key takeaways:

But do you need to hit your maximum every time you work out to get results? Perhaps it’s time to shine a light on a newer and more chilled-out fitness trend - low-intensity sustained-state, or LISS for short.

What is a low-intensity workout?

A low-intensity workout is a more moderate way of exercising. You don’t push yourself to the limits, opting for a sustained and manageable period of physical activity at a pace that’s comfortable to you.

The old saying ‘go hard or go home’ has no place in the low-intensity sustained-state world. The aim with a LISS workout is to keep your heart rate at a steady 50% of its maximum for a sustained period of at least 30 minutes.

To get a generalized baseline of your maximum heart rate, subtract your age from 220. From there you can halve that number to get to your ideal low-intensity workout heart rate.

What are the differences between HIIT and LISS workouts?

A HIIT workout focuses on getting your heart rate up to its maximum by performing repetitions of short burst high-intensity activity. Short sprints, burpees, climbers and squat jumps are all examples of HIIT exercises.

LISS workouts are more concerned with getting your heart rate to a sustained, consistent and manageable rate. When your heart beats at around 50% of its capacity, you are able to sustain the exercise for longer.

Some examples of low-intensity workouts are:

  • Walking at a casual pace.
  • Light jogging.
  • Swimming gentle laps.
  • Cycling at a casual pace.
  • Lifting weights slowly.
  • Using an elliptical machine.
  • Yoga.
  • Pilates.

What are the benefits of a low-intensity workout?

One of the significant advantages of low intensity workouts is that they’re gentle on your muscles and joints whilst providing the same benefits as a regular workout.

Staying motivated to exercise can be difficult. Even more so when your workout regime is strenuous. You are much more likely to continue with a low-intensity exercise plan that feels enjoyable rather than a punishment.

With regular practice you can expect:

  • Fat burning for weight loss.
  • Mood improvements.
  • More restful sleep.
  • A reduction in aches and pains.
  • Swift recovery from strenuous workouts.
  • Maintaining stable blood sugar.
  • Boosted energy levels.
  • Bone strengthening.
  • Muscle gain.
  • Improved cardiovascular health.

Low intensity workouts can also be beneficial if you experience anxiety. One study found that anxiety diminished during a low-intensity workout. The HIIT control group actually showed signs of increased anxiety, although this dropped after the exercises were complete.

Do you still burn fat with a low-intensity workout?

Yes, you absolutely do. Another study conducted on obese women showed improvements in fat metabolism for participants who did low-intensity workouts.

Research shows significant reduction in body fat for both high and low-intensity physical exercise. So even if you don’t sweat like a horse after your workout, you can rest assured that you are still burning those calories.

Who can do a low-intensity workout?

LISS workouts are a wonderful way to begin exercising - especially if you are new to fitness, or recovering from an injury or illness. Starting slowly is the best way to ensure you continue. Going too hard and fast is a recipe for injury.

Working out so intensively that you can barely move a muscle the next day can be extremely demotivating.

For those of you who have joint pain, or have been out of the physical exercise game for a while, a low-intensity workout is the perfect way to get moving. Because low-intensity workouts are more gentle, there is less stress on your joints.

Taking care of your joints and bones is extremely important, especially as we age. Low-intensity workouts are great for older adults. Studies have shown that a program of low-intensity workouts for the elderly can reduce indicators of frailty by improving flexibility, strength and coordination.

Three must-try low-intensity workouts you can try now

1. Go for a brisk walk

Grab your coat and some comfortable shoes and head out for a brisk 30 minute walk. Remember that you are not trying to exhaust yourself, just to get your heart pumping a little bit faster. If you need a break then listen to your body and take it slow.

2. Head to your local pool

Pack your favorite swimsuit and head to your local pool. Get into the slow lane and just swim gently up and down for 30 minutes. Take rest breaks as you need.

3. Hatha yoga

Either find a local hatha yoga class or join an online one. Wear comfortable clothes that you can stretch in and settle down for an hour of mindful movement that is sure to leave you feeling supple and calm.

You can also combine HIIT and LISS workouts by performing them on alternate days. This can help your body to recover and avoid the aches and pains that can come from constant high-intensity training.

Remember to start slowly, gradually increasing the intensity as your fitness levels improve.

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