What is LISS Cardio – and Why Is it so Fantastic?

If you’re big on staying physically fit and active, you probably already know that there are a metric ton of workout routines out there to choose from. HIIT. Aerobic. Tabata. Circuit. Cross-Fit. Boot Camp. Kettlebells. And don’t forget Interval training, Isometrics and Plyometrics, or one of our favorites, Foam Rolling!

That’s why we were surprised that we hadn’t heard about LISS, or Low Intensity, Steady State training. Unique in many ways, LISS is relatively straightforward and easy to learn. It also provides a wide range of excellent health benefits and can be safely performed by practically anyone.

In short, LISS is a great addition to your growing list of workout routines (and their acronyms!). Let’s take a closer look at LISS and it’s benefits and why it should be a part of your regular workout regimen. Enjoy!

What, Exactly, is Involved in a LISS Workout?

As we mentioned already, LISS stands for low intensity, steady state. What this means is that, when you perform any type of cardio exercise, you get into a rhythm or pace and stay at that pace for a certain amount of time.

LISS can be used with a stationary bike, when hiking, walking, swimming or when using any type of cardio equipment. Using LISS when doing Yoga is excellent as well, or even when walking your pet pooch.

As you likely already guessed, LISS is a low/moderate-intensity cardiovascular workout incorporating aerobic exercises. These have been around for some time, no doubt, under different names, including;

  • SST or Steady State Training
  • Continuous Cardiovascular Exercise
  • LSD or long, slow distance training
  • Low Intensity Exercise

LISS is slow and steady, especially when compared to an exercise routine like HIIT (high intensity interval training) where you move as fast as you can for short bursts. Another big difference is that, with HIIT, you want to get your heart rate up to about 80 to 90% of its maximum capacity, whereas with LISS you should be aiming for 40 to 50%.

The really big difference? LISS takes a good bit longer in order to get similar results. 40 to 60 minutes is the norm for a LISS workout. HIIT, on the other hand, is meant to be done fast and so you’ll finish fast too. For example, you can sneak in a HIIT workout over your lunch break.

Speaking of which, the results are similar. According to the American Council on Exercise, the results from both HITT and LISS were pretty much the same. One study found that HIIT offered no real advantage except the fact that it could be performed in a shorter time (which, for some, is its biggest advantage).

(By the way, you can read more about HIIT workouts in another blog article we’ve posted here.)

What Are the Benefits of the LISS Workout?

When compared with, say, binge-watching Game of Thrones on TV, every form of exercise offers its own unique health rewards and benefits. LISS does as well (and if you perform it on a stationary bike you can watch GOT at the same time! Bam!).  Here are some of the excellent health benefits that you’ll get with a LISS workout:

It’s Easy For Beginners

Let’s be honest, if your overage couch-potato jumped into a HIIT workout they could possibly drop dead from the physical stress. (No judgment, just fact.) That being said, anyone can start a LISS workout and be fine as long as they don’t have any underlying heart or health problems. For beginners, it’s the perfect way to get back into an exercise routine. For intermediate and advanced-level folks, it’s a great way to get in some endurance training.

It Helps Burn Fat

If dropping a few pounds is your goal, LISS is perfect. It improves your body’s ability to use your fat as fuel instead of using glycogen. And check this out; a study in 2014 found that LISS is more effective than HIIT when it comes to improving fat distribution in your body.

It’s Easier to Recover from a LISS Workout

A HIIT or Tabata workout can put a huge amount of stress on your muscles and joints, making it much more difficult for your body to recover (and it takes more time too). With a LISS workout, however, you put less stress on your body on thus can recover a lot faster.

LISS is a Fantastic Recovery Day Workout

So let’s say that you’re into HIIT, Tabatha or other workout routines like kettlebells or MMA training. Those are tough workouts and you’ll need a day to recover in most cases. On those days, you can use a LISS workout, slow and steady, to aid in your recovery and keep your muscles and joints limber.

LISS Can (and Should) Be a Very Social Workout

The goal of a LISS workout is to stay at a moderate pace for a long-ish time. That being said, many folks get started and, before they know it, they’re going full-speed ahead, defeating the purpose of the workout.

That’s why it’s highly recommended that you do your LISS workout with a friend or several friends. That way you can socialize, keep each other in check and, if you find that you can’t keep up with the conversation because you’re out of breath, you’ll know you’re hitting it too hard.

What Drawbacks Does the LISS Workout Have?

All workouts have their downsides, however small they might be.  LISS has a few but, frankly, they aren’t enough to prevent most people from taking advantage of this excellent exercise routine. They include:

It Takes Longer to Perform

This is the biggest drawback, in our opinion. You need at least 45 to 60 minutes to get the most benefits from a LISS workout. That means you need to schedule time out of your busy day to do it, which for a lot of people is rather difficult.

An Overuse Injury is Possible

Overuse injuries are, like the name suggests, injuries to a part of your body that you overuse or use too frequently. Swimmers, for example, can have problems with their shoulders. Bicyclists with their perineum (the ‘taint’). Rowers have problems occasionally with their low back and/or wrists.

The best way to avoid overuse injuries is to stretch well before starting any LISS workout and drink a lot of water to hydrate your muscles, joints and ligaments.

Hitting a Wall

For many people, when they first start a LISS workout they’ll see excellent, fast results for the first few weeks but then, inevitably, they’ll hit a wall (so to speak). That’s because your body can quickly adapt to a LISS workout and so the benefits will come slower as time goes by. Still, in our opinion, as long as you aren’t trying to build huge muscles you can stay in great shape with a LISS workout.

Boredom

While this isn’t a physical problem, boredom can be a good reason (or, let’s be honest, excuse) to stop using a LISS workout. Performing the same exercise day in and day out can get old fast, which is why it’s a good idea to work out with a friend, watch TV while you workout (if possible) or change up your LISS exercises regularly.

What Are the Best Exercises for a LISS Workout?

As we’ve mentioned, low intensity, steady state workouts demand that you do a specific exercise at a low-ish intensity over an extended time (about 45 to 60 minutes).

Some exercises are thus perfect for a LISS workout while others aren’t. Kettlebells, for example, probably wouldn’t be a great LISS choice, nor would push-up or sit-ups (unless you were already in tremendous shape and could do 500 of them in a row). That leaves several excellent exercises, however, including:

  • Swimming (one of the best)
  • Cycling (Mostly flat terrain is best)
  • Walking (Outdoors or on a treadmill)
  • Hiking (which, frankly, is pretty much walking in the wilderness)
  • Rowing
  • Cross-country skiing or ski machine
  • Flow Yoga
  • Zumba

LISS is Great For Weight Loss!

If losing weight is your goal LISS workouts are a great way to reach that goal. Research has shown that, compared to jogging or sprinting, walking at a moderate pace for 45 minutes to an hour burns the most fat.

The reason why is simple but fascinating. In order for your body to metabolize fat (use it as fuel) it needs oxygen. During a LISS workout, your body has more oxygen available and thus can break down more fat and use it for energy. If you compare that to jogging, where you’re breathing heavily and less oxygen is available, your body will use carbohydrates to get energy instead.

One way to look at it is that LISS is like cooking something on the stove on a low-flame, simmering for a long time, whereas, say, HIIT or Tabata are like cooking on a high, scorching flame. Both accomplish similar goals but the former won’t burn you out as quickly.

Will You Be Trying LISS?

At this point, you know more about the LISS workout than 98% of the people you know. Nice!  Question is, will you be trying it and possibly using it regularly to get in shape and stay in shape? As one of the easiest exercise routines to start at any level, we highly recommend it and hope you do!

If you have any questions about LISS or would like any advice, please let us now. Also, if you’d like to tell us a cool story about your LISS experience, please do so and we’ll share it with our readers! Thanks!

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