Burned Out on HIIT? Time to Give Cortisol Conscious LISS a Go Instead

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Between the boot camps and the boxing classes, the simple act of going for a brisk walk for exercise isn’t something we think about much in the current era of wellness. Thanks to packed schedules and a squeezed-for-time culture, we’re all about getting more bang for our buck—we see you, HIIT—but it might be time to reconsider that mentality. At the other end of the spectrum, low intensity steady state cardio, otherwise known as LISS is a one form of cortisol-conscious workouts (which, BTW, we called as one of our 2019 Trends) that could pay off in the long run.

LISS is a form of exercise where your heart rate stays at a moderate intensity for the entire duration of the workout unlike HIIT, which is all about getting your heart rate up and down over a shorter period of time. In other words, an easy jog, a pleasant bike ride, a brisk walk—yep, that’s LISS.  So, who should do LISS, and how often? Let’s take a closer look.

Why you should give LISS a go

If you think LISS isn’t for you, think again. According to nutritionist and certified personal trainer Gabbi Berkow, anyone can benefit from LISS. In fact, it’s the main form of exercise recommended by the American College of Sports Medicine, which is the organization that develops our national exercise guidelines. “The ACSM recommends at least 30 minutes of moderate intensity cardiovascular exercise at least five days per week for health and weight management,” says Berkow. “Moderate intensity cardiovascular exercise is another phrase for LISS cardio.”

Love getting sweaty when you work out? Trust us, incorporating LISS into your life once or twice a week will only make those workouts better. “LISS is great for a recovery workout after a high-intensity day, as it reduces your risk of injury,” explains trainer Lacey Stone.

Injury prevention isn’t the only benefit of LISS. According to Berkow, it also helps strengthen your cardiorespiratory system. “It helps your heart and breathing muscles to become stronger. It can also help lower cholesterol, decrease blood pressure, and reduce the risk of diabetes by increasing blood flow, improving circulation, and helping blood get into your muscles,” she explains.

There is also some evidence that LISS could help with brain health. “Just like lifting weights makes muscles grow, LISS can actually increase the size of your brain,” says Berkow. “LISS also boosts your mood, reduces stress, and has been shown to reduce anxiety and depression as effectively as antidepressant medications.” Convinced yet? We thought so.

A few LISS activities worth trying

If a long walk sounds boring to you, no worries—there are tons of different LISS alternatives that you’ll love. “Any cardio workout where your heart rate remains moderate and lasts at least 10 minutes would be considered LISS,” explains Berkow. “A brisk walk that’s at least 10 to 15 minutes, a 30-minute bike ride, using the elliptical at a moderate intensity for 20 minutes, rowing at a steady pace for 15 minutes, a light jog that lasts at least 10 minutes, doing 30 to 40 minutes of light aerobics, or swimming for at least 15 minutes would all be considered LISS cardio.” In other words, your LISS options are endless.

LISS versus HIIT: Which one’s better?

LISS and HIIT get compared a lot, and not just because they’re both referred to in acronym form. Essentially, the idea with HIIT is that you get a better workout in less time, which is appealing. But according to Berkow—who actually wrote a research paper on this topic—the most important thing with exercise is that you find something you can actually stick with.

“If you’re short on time and/or prefer HIIT to LISS cardio workouts, you’ll get similar cardiovascular and fitness benefits,” she says. “However, if you’re just starting to exercise, prefer LISS (or don’t like HIIT), or have an injury or condition that prevents you from doing high intensity work, LISS is totally fine. The most effective workout is the one that you enjoy, do regularly, and can maintain long term.”

Speaking of workouts you'll love, one writer found that she really enjoyed jumping rope and another loves swimming laps.

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