woman in white jacket stretching in a field

HIIT vs LISS: What’s the Difference?

*Important Disclaimer: I am NOT a licensed personal trainer, I am a fitness hobbyist, so please don’t take my advice as gospel! You should always consult a doctor before starting any kind of physical activity routine.

Hey, all! Again, feels like another long week! I’m making my groceries stretch so I can use up what I’ve got in the fridge before I go on vacation this week (yay) and am being kept really busy lining things up at work so I don’t have to play catchup- so it’s no wonder the days are dragging by!

I’ve made pretty good use of that bodyweight circuit I wrote about a little over a week ago, but I’ve still made a few trips to the gym in the last few days. And while I’ve recently developed an appreciation for strength training, my first love will always be cardio.

I’ve heard a lot of buzzwords surrounding types of cardio, especially working in marketing for a client in the fitness space. Since I’ve already done the research, I figured I might as well share two of the most common kinds, and let you know which I prefer!

Woman stretching in countryside

High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)

Arguably the better known of the two, HIIT exercise is classified as a high-intensity (duh, but bear with me), workout in which you perform short bursts of activity, giving it every bit of effort you possibly can, followed by moderate periods of rest.

One of the main reasons behind this form of cardio’s meteoric rise in the fitness world is it’s purported ability to burn calories even after a workout is over. Because a HIIT workout requires the body to use its maximum oxygen capacity for a set time (or VO2 max), post-workout, your body is still relatively oxygen starved, leading to what’s referred to as “post-exercise oxygen consumption“, or PEOC. This has been stated as the catalyst for greater fat burn than other types of aerobic workouts, even after you step off that machine or roll up your exercise mat.

When I’m at the gym, I like to do a quick and convenient 15-20 minute HIIT treadmill workout, incorporating alternating sprints with slower uphill walking. Otherwise, I’ll do an AMRAP workout similar to the one I wrote about at home- either way, I’m patting myself on the back after because those workouts are ROUGH.

Low Intensity Steady State (LISS)

LISS workouts are generally very low endurance activities (think walking, hiking, swimming, even cycling if done at a relaxed pace) that are designed to mirror the body’s natural progression towards steady, continuous strength and health without the punishing extreme of a high-intensity regime.

In addition to being the perfect form of exercise to create a rock-solid training base, it’s perfect for those recovering from an injury or tough workout, active aging for seniors, and even just as a shared social activity. Think about it: if you can actually catch your breath enough to chat with a friend while training, chances are it’s going to be a more enjoyable experience- one you’ll instinctively associate positively. The idea is that it could  help you stick to an established routine and get further towards your fitness goals.

The Takeaway

Experts have debated the merits of both forms for decades. Ultimately, though, it’s up to what you want out of a fitness routine. While it’s certainly true that HIIT workouts can show results quicker, it’s also extremely taxing- and you run the risk of serious injury without proper preparation and recovery time. In addition, performing too much of one and not enough of the other can lead to a frustrating plateau.

I personally like to shoot for 2-3 quick HIIT sessions per week stacked onto my basic strength routine, with 2 LISS activities per week. I find that incorporating lower-intensity exercises helps me stick to the routine I’ve set in place, as well as engage in active recovery after a particularly tough workout.

Let me know if you have a favorite type of cardio to do in the comments below, or shoot me an email. I’m happy to answer any questions I can 🙂

Keep it real,

-Maggie <3

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