What Exactly is LISS and What is It Good For? Your Full Guide to the Fat Burning Exercise

Everything you need to know

what is liss, women's health uk

Heard of LISS? You know, ‘Low Intensity Steady State’ training such as walking, hiking or cycling? Well, if you haven’t then you’re in the right place because we’re about to dive into a full explainer: What it’s good for, how to do it properly and when to add it into your weekly workout schedule.

Ready? Scroll on.

What is LISS?

‘LISS’ stands for Low-Intensity Steady State training, so instead of pushing yourself to breaking point for short bursts, you aim for a low level of exertion for a long, continuous period of time.

For many years, LISS was the go-to exercise for burning exercise cals, but – when its younger and speedier cousin HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) came along, it was quickly relegated to the B-team. However, those of you that were quick to hang up your walking shoes may have jumped too soon – LISS has a myriad of benefits that shouldn’t be overlooked.

In fact, a weekly routine that contains both LISS and HIIT might help you hit your goals more quickly than if you were to commit to just one – more on this later.

Benefits of LISS training

  • Pain elimination
  • Posture improvement
  • Burn fat
  • Improves your body’s cardiovascular capacity
  • Accessible and scalable to all fitness levels

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What are some example LISS workouts?

LISS training is any low endurance workout, all at a relaxed level,

  • Walking
  • Swimming
  • Cycling
  • Hiking

LISS training is any low endurance workout that’s around 50-65% of your max heart rate, depending on your fitness level. So you should still be able to hold a conversation whilst performing LISS, so it’s a good form of exercise to do with a friend or the family.

‘LISS is important because it breaks up your week,’ says WH cover star andPT Kayla Itsines, speaking at the one-day Women’s Health Live Virtual event.

‘Going for LISS [exercise] is so great for your overall fitness and also for your mind as well,’ she continues. ‘Set a 15-minute timer or a 20-minute timer and go for a walk and when it goes off, come back. It’s a really good way to break up your week and still stay active and motivated to do more.’

But, for those who strongly dislike walking, cycling or hiking – don’t worry, you’re not alone! – there are some other options to get your LISS-fix:

‘A semi-fast yoga session you can do at home,’ is one option according to Itsines. Or, ‘you could even march on the spot while watching TV,’ she suggests.

Try these LISS workouts:

  • A 2-4 mile walk, aiming for a pace between 14 and 17 minutes per mile depending on fitness levels.
  • Hopping on a treadmill, cross-trainer or stationary exercise bike for 30-60 minutes at a moderate pace.
  • A Vinyasa or ‘flow’ yoga class that keeps your heart rate between 40% and 60% of your maximum.

LISS vs. HIIT

Unlike HIIT – where you go balls-to-the-wall switching between max-effort bursts and short recovery periods – LISS is all about exercising at a slow and steady pace that burns fat over other energy sources, such as carbohydrates or food.

‘HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) alternates between powerful, limit-pushing bursts and slowed-down recovery periods, while LISS helps you achieve longevity in your training,’ explains Equinox UK Group Fitness Manager, Michelle Morrey.

Why is LISS good for weight loss?

Itsines frequently recommends LISS as part of her training programmes – citing the fact that LISS exercises such as walking burn the most fat per calorie when compared to jogging and sprinting.

‘In order to metabolise fat the body needs oxygen and the lower the intensity, the more oxygen is available to be used by the body to break down fat,’ Itsines explains. When you’re jogging or sprinting, less oxygen is available meaning that your body will use other energy sources, such as carbohydrates, for energy instead of fat.’

Bear in mind, however, HIIT does still burn fat, as well as helping with muscle adaptations – plus it burns more calories in a shorter space of time so if you’re stretched fitting in a workout then HIIT is a great option.

How much LISS should I do a week?

At WH, we encourage you to experiment with your exercises and try out new workouts that will get your heart rate going – do make sure you see your GP if you have a condition, are pregnant, or are feeling under the weather – but working out is also about balance and finding out what’s good for you.

‘Ideally, only 20% of your workouts should be high-intensity,’ says Morrey. ‘Whether you’re an Olympic athlete or a mum, it’s the same. Say you work out five times a week, only two sessions should be HIIT. If HIIT is not carefully controlled, it can lead to injury.’

The good thing about LISS is that it’s an easy, accessible and family-friendly way to keep fit and healthy.

Who is LISS good for?

Luke Worthington, PT, Nike trainer and sports scientist, breaks down exactly why LISS isn’t just ‘the easy option out’:

‘TypicallyHIIT sessions have appealed to those who are time poor people who need to fit in a short and effective workout. But, HIIT can actually cause more pressure as it’s a high stress mode of exercise for the body but also for the mind and the nervous system.’

So from this perspective, LISS may actually be best for those with stressful lives and could benefit more from a low octane, long duration exercise session that is more calming for the parasympathetic nervous system as well as causing less damage to the body,’ says Worthington.

Morrey agrees with LISS being something that could benefit the vast majority of people but also something that’s gaining in popularity traction too:

‘There’s been a pendulum shift, which I’ve seen all over the world. Sport science is changing, and we’re realising that over-stressing the body is not beneficial and can lead to injury and sickness,’ she says.

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