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Today's workouts come with all sorts of interval training styles, whether it's HIIT (high-intensity interval training), EMOM (every minute on the minute), or AMRAP (as many rounds as possible). But sometimes, you don't have the headspace - or energy - to count every interval. That's where LISS cardio comes in.
LISS cardio, aka low-intensity, steady-state cardio, is doing a workout with repetitive motion - think running or swimming laps - at a consistent pace. So instead of working at your max effort for a shorter period of time, as you do in HIIT, you aim for a lower level of effort for a continuous period of time, with no recovery time in between.
With LISS cardio, you keep your heart rate at a light to moderately hard level - around 60 percent of your maximum heart rate - so you can sustain that pace for about 45 minutes to an hour, which helps you burn fat and build endurance. You can gauge if you're working at the right intensity by trying to carry on a conversation with a workout buddy. You should be slightly out of breath, but still be able to chat with your friend.
What are the benefits of LISS cardio?
In addition to burning kilojoules and fat, LISS cardio can help improve your endurance and overall cardiovascular fitness. It also helps you build and maintain muscle to keep your metabolism humming.
LISS cardio also has a lower risk of injury than HIIT because it's less ballistic and friendlier on your joints. And because you're working at a lower intensity, this type of workout is a good option for beginners or those who want to get back into exercise and work their way up to HIIT workouts. Plus, alternating LISS cardio and HIIT workouts during the week gives your muscles a chance to recover from high-intensity routines.
LISS can also provide a host of other health benefits: A 2018 study in the journal Neurology found that high cardiovascular fitness in midlife is associated with a lower risk of dementia in women later in life. And a 2012 study in the Journal of the American Heart Association showed that cardiorespiratory fitness is linked to a significantly lower risk of cardiovascular disease - even in already low-risk individuals
How can you incorporate LISS into your workout routine?
LISS cardio is super versatile, meaning you can use it to do basically any type of workout. Aside from walking and running, here are some other ways to incorporate LISS cardio into your routine:
Go swimming (or skiing): Seasonal sports can be great forms of light cardio. And chances are, the time will fly by because you’re having fun!
Bike to the park and back: Aim for a total of 10-15kms, or 45 minutes to an hour of biking. Pedal at a moderate pace to keep your heart rate elevated.
Consider hiking: You get bonus points if you pick a hilly route. Time in nature combined with physical activity translates to a ton of mood-boosting benefits.
How often should you do LISS cardio vs. HIIT?
Aim for two to three LISS cardio sessions per week, alternating it with other types of exercise, like HIIT training and strength training, on the other days of the week.