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Best Cardio Routine for You: LISS or HIIT?

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If you’re into fitness, you’ve probably heard about HIIT cardio. High intensity interval training (HIIT) is all the rage, and for good reason. If you’re into aerobic and cardio full-body training, especially for burning calories, then HIIT is hard to miss precisely because it works. But HIIT has a more relaxed sister that many fit girls might not know about — LISS.

Low intensity steady state cardio exercise — or LISS cardio — works by achieving continuous, low to moderate exertion over a long period of time. Workout plans that feature LISS cardio include a family of relaxed but extended exercises, such as swimming, hiking, or cycling.

For example, a long bike ride over a variety of terrains might qualify as LISS cardio, while a 45-minute spinning class might qualify as HIIT cardio because these exercises are characterized by high-endurance, high-exertion pushes in a shorter period of time.

LISS and HIIT: Different Ways to Work Up a Sweat

It’s undeniable that high intensity interval training cardio has lots of benefits for weight loss. And most experts agree that if you think about your time at the gym as a precious resource, HIIT exercises are going to be making the most of that time. HIIT burns more calories to lose weight, and it’s just more convenient for folks running low on both time and energy who need that pick-me-up endorphin rush that only a great sweat session can provide.

However, the advantage of LISS isn’t all to do with maximizing your time at the gym. Where low intensity steady state cardio comes out on top is when we consider overall wellness. That’s because, as good for you as HIIT is, there are all sorts of circumstances where that kind of intensity is just not sustainable for an extended period of time.

If your body is going through some kind of change — such as recovering from an injury or adjusting to a change in diet — then pushing yourself to do high intensity exercises is less likely to have the desired outcomes. In fact, your time at the gym might leave you feeling sore and unsatisfied, and it won’t help you lose weight healthily as well as something more manageable and sustainable.

HIIT cardio isn’t easy to keep up unless your workout routine is well-supported by a high caloric intake that’s reliably rich in proteins and healthy carbohydrates. For people with busy schedules, unpredictable work hours, and lots of commitments, that kind of diet isn’t always on the table.

Why Choose LISS (Without Saying Goodbye to HIIT)

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On a practical level, LISS cardio reduces the risk of overtraining and injuries. But it’s also a lot more comfortable. High intensity interval training is great for getting in shape, but it’s not always super social. If you’re used to working out with a partner (whether it’s a friend or your significant other), HIIT doesn’t really accommodate in-the-moment communication, especially if you’re at different ability levels. For instance, if your workout buddy is older, has an injury, or is just learning how to run for fitness, you sprinting past them isn’t exactly bonding time. You might only  end up seeing each other during warm up exercises!

The best workout routines are all about balance. Ideally, you should be working up a serious sweat with HIIT, and then alternating with intermittent LISS sessions. Balancing your exercises that way will reduce the strain that working out puts on your body, and lead to healthier muscle growth and more sustainable, stable weight loss that works with your overall fitness goals.