What is HIIT and LISS, and Which is Better for Your Goals?

What is HIIT and LISS, and Which is Better for Your Goals?

Chances are you’ve heard of the terms HIIT and LISS along your fitness journey or are at least familiar with the concepts and what they entail. However, you may not be familiar with how they benefit your body or what occurs in your body when you perform HIIT circuits or steady-state cardio. Having a deeper understanding of the two will help you achieve your goals and determine which method is suitable for you, given your fitness level or lifestyle!


What is HIIT?

HIIT stands for High-Intensity Interval Training. As I’m sure you can tell by the name, it is a form of exercise that strengthens your cardiovascular system as it involves high bursts of activity followed by short rest periods in between. HIIT delivers a strong aerobic workout in a short amount of time – promising to boost metabolism for up to two hours after you’re done working out!

During a HIIT workout, the goal is to get your heart beating at 80-95% of its max rate. Workouts are performed at intervals of varying ratios based on your fitness level (like 40 seconds on and 20 seconds off, an even 30:30, or check out this lab tested 4-by-4 routine from Norway!) and are highly customizable, allowing them to be performed almost anywhere! You can perform a HIIT session on a cardio machine such as a treadmill, stationary bike, rowing machine, or create a HIIT circuit. Circuits typically include switching between an intense cardio or compound movement to raise your heartbeat and a slower, resistance-based exercise to rest and recover.

HIIT’s major claim to fame is that it torches more calories and keeps your body burning calories for longer than regular cardio/training workouts. Sounds great, but the truth is you can get similar health benefits (like calories burned, decreased blood pressure, and improved oxygen consumption in muscles) in longer exercise sessions as well. The main difference you’re looking at is time, and of course, energy!


What is LISS?

LISS, on the other hand, stands for Low-Intensity Steady State exercise. It’s the opposing concept to HIIT where exercise is performed for a more extended period but at a less intense pace. It is another form of aerobic workout, where you aim to keep your heart rate at 50-65% of your max rate. Walking, biking, cycling, and swimming are all forms of LISS that you can incorporate into your routine.

The general rule for LISS is that you should be performing at a rate that allows you to hold a conversation comfortably – making it a suitable exercise for any fitness level! Whether you are getting back into the groove after a hiatus or are a regular at the gym, LISS has plenty of benefits to reap. Since it’s kept at a moderate pace, meaning it can be performed a few times a week without significant recovery time. It’s also a great way to get back into your routine after suffering an injury, as it is extremely low stress on your body and joints.

One of the easiest and most readily available forms of LISS is walking. Walking does wonders not only for your physical health but also for mental health. Helpguide.org cited the results of a study that found that regularly walking for an hour reduces the risk of depression by 26%! In addition, it helps promote better sleep and general relaxation and contributes to higher self-esteem.


Which is better for your goals?

So here we have two seemingly opposite forms of cardio – which one is more effective at helping you lose weight? The answer: you will burn the same calories by each method. You may burn a few more calories a minute when performing HIIT, but the difference is marginal. What it boils down to is which one fits into your lifestyle best. Short on time? HIIT – get in and get out. Craving a nice sweat session? HIIT! Or, do you prefer to get your exercise in with friends on a walk? LISS will get you where you need to be. Or are the thoughts of challenging, heart-pumping cardio circuits enough to send you – walking – for the hills? LISS!

There is no “one size fits all” approach to fitness and training. There are many forms of exercise and ways to maintain a healthy lifestyle to help keep you (literally) on your toes! Shaking up your routine keeps things interesting. Many trainers recommend incorporating both HIIT and LISS to reap all the benefits. It’s all about finding the right balance that works for you and your lifestyle.