You’ve probably seen LISS cardio on social media or read about it on fitness guru, Kayla Itsines’ feed. But what exactly is it all about and is it worth giving it a go? We not only dug a bit deeper into the definition of LISS cardio, but also tried it out for a few weeks.
The how and the why
LISS cardio stands for Low-Intensity Sustained State cardio. It is basically any aerobic or cardio based activity performed for a prolonged period, at a low intensity. It is the opposite of the fitness phenomena, HIIT (High-Intensity Interval Training).
HIIT focuses on high-intensity cardio performed in quick bursts followed by a rest period. It raises your heart rate fast, because of the high intensity. HIIT is further known for its after-burn effect, where your body is able to keep burning fat even after exercise.
The two types of fitness approaches are not mutually exclusive. The one can exist in combination with the other. In fact, incorporating LISS in your HITT routine can help you see more rapid results.
The question remains; why choose LISS? There are a few simple reasons why LISS is proving to be popular. The first great thing about LISS is that in most instances, you don’t need equipment, and you don’t even have to go to the gym.
Secondly, it is one of the best ways to start your fitness journey, or to get back into it after an hiatus. Has your winter exercise routine not gone as planned? LISS is a great way to ease back into it. The same goes for people recovering from injuries or illness. LISS also doesn’t take a massive toll on the body so once you’ve started your LISS journey, it is easy to stick to.
Some examples of LISS exercises would include walking at a good pace, hiking, swimming, indoor or outdoor steady cycling, and other steady recreational activities such as surfing or skating.
In the end, there is actually only one question that needs to be answered when it comes to exercise – does LISS burn fat? High intensity exercise robs the body of oxygen. Fat tissue needs oxygen to be broken down. LISS leaves the body with more oxygen that can be used to break down fat tissue.
Giving LISS a go
After doing research on LISS, the science behind it and the exercise structures, I decided to give it a go. I enjoy going to the gym, but I lead a very nomadic lifestyle with regular travel for business and maintaining my long-distance relationship also means regular intervals of inactivity in my exercise routine.
I am also an avid yogi and was delighted to hear that gentler forms of yoga, which keeps your heart rate in the fat burning zone, are also considered to be LISS exercises. I detest running and was overjoyed to learn that it wouldn’t be required of me for this particular regime.
My approach to the gym has traditionally taken more of a HIIT approach, as I love to get in, get my heart rate up, feel my muscles ache and go home exhausted. Hitting the gym on my very first day of taking on a LISS mindset, I was terrified of just feeling like I was wasting my time. I took an incline walk on the treadmill for 30 minutes, followed by some bodyweight exercises and left feeling quite despondent as I was missing that endorphin high.
For my second go, I swapped the incline walk for a 30 minute cycle, once again followed by bodyweight exercises. This time, I could feel the familiar burn in my legs and I felt I had accomplished a lot more. Just as I was planning a swim for my third try, an unexpected trip came up and I had to pack my bags.
Heading to a small town with no access to a gym, I was forced to improvise and on my first try, I headed out for a hike. It was absolute bliss. I got a good heart rate going and kept ascending at a steady pace. Instead of my usual 30 minute cardio slot, I spent an hour hiking the Langeberg and returned feeling energised and exhausted at the same time.
For my second out-of-town routine, I decided to explore the little village by foot. I headed out on the gravel road walking at a steady pace, returning about an hour and a half later with the same glow as per the previous routine. I was now feeling like I was getting the hang of this. I changed my routine up for the last try with a yoga vinyasa flow and short pranayama sequence.
One of the main reasons I exercise is because of my tendency towards insomnia and by the time I included yoga to the routine, I was once again sleeping better and felt that I had spent all that extra energy on doing cardio, not harder than usual, but longer than usual.
The beauty of LISS, I would say, lies in its versatility and although one can potentially do a great LISS routine in the gym, I think it is a superb way for us to also get back into the great outdoors and almost figuratively make time ‘to stop and smell the roses’ as we attempt a more mindful exercise routine.
Have you tried LISS? What did you think? Pop your comments down below!