Are you a lover of the high-intensity interval training method? Dedicated to pushing your limits in brief intervals.
Or do you prefer a slowed-down, stable version of exercise? One that you can sustain for longer periods of time. Say 30 minutes or more.
Do you want to know which approach wins the battle? Because that’s the choice you’ll make.
While many trainers fit into one camp, one absolute way of thinking, it is important to understand the benefits and the difference between these two approaches. Then you can make an informed decision about what’s right for you. With this in mind, let’s take a deeper look.
High-Intensity Interval Training
High-intensity interval training (HIIT) is a cardio-focused approach that involves alternating periods of high-intensity activity with periods of rest or low-intensity activity.
The high-intensity periods vary in length. They typically last between 30 seconds to two minutes and are performed near maximum effort. These highly vigorous “pushes” are interspersed with relative rest, low-intensity periods that last for a longer duration. Typically one to three minutes or more.
Common goals of HIIT are to improve cardiovascular fitness, and burn more calories in a shorter period of time, which may also aid in fat loss.
As it’s more intense than LISS, it is usually recommended for those with a good fitness level and without preexisting health challenges. However, HIIT may be a perfect option regardless, as we’ll see below. Chat with your health professional for tailored advice.
The cardiovascular fitness benefits of HIIT
Can you efficiently use energy for muscular activity? In short, are you fit?
Cardiovascular fitness is important for a long, healthy life. Lose this, and your mortality risk soars; you risk heading to a premature grave.
HIIT has a role to play here. It offers a way to improve fitness and longevity. From those who are young and in good shape to those suffering from illness.
One study found that young athletes benefited from HIIT. In particular, this approach cut down time spent training and left room for the other elements of life. This can make exercise “stick-able” for normal folks.
In contrast, a review study published in the British Journal of ports Medicine found that high-intensity interval training significantly increases cardiorespiratory fitness in those with lifestyle-induced chronic diseases. Ill people benefit from HIIT too.
The calorie-burning benefits of HIIT
Would you love to chew through calories faster?
High-intensity interval training may be your answer.
A study published in The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research investigated a single session of exercise. Resistance training, endurance cycling, endurance treadmill, and HIIT were compared.
“Individuals can burn more calories performing a HIIT session… than spending the same amount of time performing a steady-state exercise session.”
The fat loss benefits of HIIT
When we speak of the desire to lose weight, what we really mean is we wish to shed body fat. We want to keep (or build) our muscle mass and remove the wobbly bits. The fat. HIIT may help.
A study published in the Journal of Exercise Science & Fitness investigated three groups of overweight or obese people over a two-month period. Moderate-intensity continuous training, high-intensity interval training, and high-intensity interval training where participants could adjust their passive recovery periods.
The authors found that HIIT triggered greater reductions in total and abdominal fat masses. Yes, people lost more fat. They also lost more of their dangerous visceral fat; fat from the belly area.
HIIT can be performed using a variety of exercises such as running, cycling, rowing, or using bodyweight exercises like burpees and mountain climbers.
YouTube is a great source of free instructional videos!
Low-Intensity Steady State Training
Have you tried HIIT and found it’s not for you?
Maybe you’ve been told that high intensity is the only way to go, but you’re just not a fan.
Low-intensity steady-state training — or LISS — might be a better “fit.” (Literally!)
LISS is a type of cardio exercise that involves performing low-intensity exercise for a prolonged period of time. Typically 20 to 30 minutes or more.
Instead of the on-and-off strenuous nature of HIIT, LISS engages a constant, regular push.
Common goals of LISS are to improve cardiovascular fitness, aid weight loss, and as an alternative for those who are unable to or prefer a more rhythmic approach. This training method is commonly used in endurance sports like running and cycling.
While the term may sound new, this form of exercise isn’t. It is what, in part, government exercise recommendations are based on; regular low to moderate-intensity exercise.
The cardiovascular fitness benefits of LISS
The heart and lungs adapt to exercise, increasing their strength and your capacity. We, humans, have taken advantage of this for eons. We’ve pushed to improve fitness since well before HIIT took off, using the old-school steady approach.
Because it works.
But you’re here to find out which approach is better, right?
When comparing LISS and HIIT, this quote puts it succinctly: “Results show similar improvements as traditional low-intensity exercise, but in a shorter time and fewer sessions [for HIIT].”
LISS and HIIT both boost fitness to a similar level. Low intensity just takes a little more time. So, whichever approach you take the secret is the same: you must stick to it.
The calorie-burning benefits of LISS
While body size and weight loss aren’t as simple as the calories in, calories out mantra, it is a factor. When you move, you burn calories.
LISS will help you to burn calories. All movement does.
The fat loss benefits of LISS
Exercise is important to achieve a healthy body, including weight loss. But it may not be as easy if we don’t also address our diet, stress, sleep, hormone imbalance, and other contributory aspects like enjoyment of the process.
For many people, LISS is infinitely more enjoyable than HIIT. If you’d prefer a slower, less full-on approach, the former may be your winner.
Evidence supports the statement that “Recommended levels of [physical activity] may help produce weight loss. However, up to 60 min/day may be required when relying on exercise alone for weight loss.”
With LISS, exercise for up to an hour each day may be required to shed fat.
Exercise training — in general, and including LISS — can reduce fat, even when there is no “on-the-scale” loss of body weight. Simply because fat mass drops and muscle mass increases. That means being physically active achieves the benefits most people really want from weight loss: a more attractive physique, a slimmer waistline, a lovelier silhouette, and fewer jiggly bits.
LISS approaches can include a variety of exercises such as walking, cycling, rowing, water aerobics, gardening, or walking up and down a set of chairs.
The HIIT versus LISS takeaway
So, which choice should you make?
Both HIIT and LISS can benefit cardiovascular fitness, increase calorie consumption, and aid weight loss.
A better choice, then, is what do you enjoy?
Which approach can you incorporate into your lifestyle in a permanent way?
If you have limited time and enjoy a vigorous approach, HIIT may be the better option.
If you love a lower-intensity walk or working in your garden, and you aren’t time poor, LISS might be for you.
If you adore variation, incorporate both. No one said it has to be either-or.