HIIT vs LISS: Which is More Effective for Fat Loss?

Connor Sellers
Published by Connor Sellers | Senior Coach
Last updated: November 24, 2023
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HIIT (high-intensity interval training) and LISS (low-intensity steady state) are popular workout approaches catering to different fitness goals and preferences.

Understanding the differences between these exercise methods can help you choose the most suitable one for your needs and maximize the benefits of your training regimen.

As a fitness professional, I will delve into HIIT vs. LISS, exploring their unique characteristics, benefits, and considerations in this article.

Whether you're seeking to boost cardiovascular fitness, burn calories, improve endurance, or find a workout routine that aligns with your lifestyle, this comprehensive comparison will guide you.

Quick Summary

  • HIIT involves short bursts of intense exercise followed by brief recovery periods, while LISS entails longer, steady-state aerobic activities at a moderate intensity.
  • HIIT is a time-efficient workout that elevates the heart rate rapidly, improves cardiovascular fitness, and stimulates the body's metabolism for increased calorie burning even after the workout.
  • LISS is less demanding on the body, helps improve aerobic endurance, and is suitable for individuals of different fitness levels, providing a comfortable and enjoyable exercise experience.


A coach writing down on a whiteboard differences between HIIT and LISS

HIIT and LISS are contrasting workout approaches that offer different benefits and cater to varying fitness goals.

HIIT is ideal for those seeking time-efficient workouts, maximum calorie burn, and improved cardiovascular fitness in shorter durations.

LISS is suitable for individuals looking for low-impact, longer-duration workouts that enhance endurance, burn fat, and provide active recovery.

Combining HIIT and LISS into your fitness routine can offer a well-rounded approach to achieving your goals [1]. Let's compare the key characteristics of HIIT and LISS:



HIIT workouts involve short bursts of intense exercise performed at maximum effort.

These high-intensity intervals are typically followed by short recovery periods or low-intensity activity.


LISS exercises maintain a consistent, moderate intensity throughout the entire session. The focus is on sustaining a steady pace without significant variations in effort level.


A coach watching a person doing workouts at the gym


HIIT workouts are typically shorter in duration, ranging from a few minutes to around 30 minutes.

The high-intensity intervals are performed in a structured pattern, with rest periods in between.


LISS exercises are longer in duration, usually lasting 30 minutes or more.

The emphasis is on maintaining a steady state of exercise for an extended period without the need for structured intervals.

Cardiovascular Fitness


HIIT is known for its ability to improve cardiovascular fitness rapidly.

The intense intervals challenge the heart and lungs, promoting cardiovascular endurance and efficiency [2].


LISS exercises improve cardiovascular fitness by improving aerobic capacity and endurance over longer durations.

While the intensity is lower, LISS still benefits heart health and stamina.

Read More: Low-Intensity Cardio 101 Guide: Benefits and Example Workouts

Calorie Burning and Fat Loss

A person doing calorie burning workout


HIIT is highly effective for burning fat and calorie loss. Contrary to popular belief, the duration of LISS cardio does not necessarily equate to burning more calories.

HIIT sessions can actually result in higher calorie expenditure. The intense intervals elevate the metabolic rate, leading to increased calories burned during and after the workout.


LISS workouts primarily rely on fat as a fuel source, making them effective for burning fat when performed for extended periods.

However, the calories burned during a single session may be lower compared to HIIT.

Muscle Preservation


HIIT workouts can help preserve muscle mass while promoting fat loss.

The intense nature of HIIT stimulates muscle engagement and can contribute to overall muscle tone.


LISS cardio is generally not effective for preserving or building muscle mass compared to HIIT. However, they can be a suitable complement to a comprehensive fitness routine.

What Is HIIT?

A couple doing HIIT at the gym

HIIT stands for high-intensity interval training. It is a type of exercise regimen that alternates between short bursts of intense exercise and brief recovery periods.

The workouts typically involve performing a specific exercise or a series of exercises at maximum effort for a set time, followed by a short period of rest or low-intensity exercise.

This cycle of high-intensity exercise and recovery is repeated for a predetermined number of rounds or a specific duration.

HIIT helps you build and maintain moderate amounts of lean muscle mass. It also produces an after-burn effect called excess post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC).

During HIIT, your body is pushed to its maximum capacity, resulting in a significant increase in oxygen consumption.

After completing a HIIT session, your body continues to consume oxygen at an elevated rate during the post-exercise period to restore various physiological processes to their baseline levels.

This means that even after you've finished your workout, your body continues to work hard to recover, repair muscle tissue, and replenish energy stores, which may result in an extended period of elevated metabolism and calorie burn post-exercise.

The afterburn effect of HIIT can contribute to increased caloric expenditure and potentially promote fat burning.

Research suggests that the intense nature of HIIT workouts stimulates metabolic activity and leads to a greater overall energy expenditure compared to low-intensity exercise [3].

HIIT workouts can be designed for various activities, including running, cycling, bodyweight exercises, or a combination of different circuit training exercises.

"When looking to lose weight, it’s important to focus on what type of weight you lose. Focusing on building or maintaining lean body mass through resistance training (rather than just losing weight) should be a priority.”

- Mary Wing, Certified Personal Trainer

What Is LISS Cardio?

A person doing cardio at the gym

LISS stands for low-intensity steady state and is a form of steady-state cardio.

LISS is an exercise method characterized by maintaining a consistent low-to-moderate level of intensity throughout the duration of the workout.

Unlike HIIT, which involves intense bursts of activity, LISS cardio exercise focuses on sustaining a steady pace for an extended period.

Typically, LISS cardio sessions include walking, light jogging, cycling at a moderate speed, swimming, or using an elliptical machine or quality stair climber at a comfortable pace.

The key principle of LISS cardio is to keep your heart rate elevated within a target range that is lower than your maximum heart rate.

This sustainable intensity allows you to engage in the activity for an extended period, ranging from 30 minutes to several hours.

Benefits and Drawbacks of HIIT and LISS

A coach teaching HIIT and LISS

Here are the benefits and drawbacks of both HIIT and LISS workouts:

Benefits of HIIT

  • Time Efficiency: HIIT workout is typically shorter in duration compared to LISS cardio, making them ideal for individuals with limited time.
  • Increased Calorie Burn: HIIT's intense intervals elevate the metabolic rate, leading to a greater burn of calories during and after the workout. This can contribute to fat loss and fat burning.
  • Cardiovascular Fitness: HIIT challenges the cardiovascular system, improving aerobic capacity and endurance [4].
  • Muscle Preservation: HIIT workouts can help preserve lean muscle mass while promoting fat loss, which is beneficial for improving body composition.
  • Versatility: HIIT workouts can be customized and adapted to various exercises, making them suitable for a wide range of individuals and fitness goals.

Related: Benefits of HIIT

Drawbacks of HIIT

  • High Intensity: The intensity of HIIT may be too demanding for individuals with certain health conditions, injuries, or those who are new to exercise.
  • Increased Risk of Injury: Performing high-intensity exercises without proper form and technique can increase the risk of injury.

Benefits of LISS

A person doing LISS outside
  • Low Impact: Workouts are generally gentle on the joints and muscles, making them suitable for beginners, individuals with injuries, or those who prefer a lower-impact exercise [5].
  • Long-Duration Calorie Burn: LISS relies on fat as a fuel source and can provide sustained burning of fat over an extended period, contributing to fat loss.
  • Cardiovascular Endurance: LISS exercises improve aerobic capacity and endurance, helping to strengthen the cardiovascular system.
  • Active Recovery: LISS can be used as active recovery on rest days or in combination with other high-intensity workouts, promoting muscle recovery and reducing fatigue.

Drawbacks of LISS

  • Time Commitment: LISS cardio workouts are typically longer in duration compared to HIIT, which may be a drawback for individuals with busy schedules.
  • Lower Calorie Burn per Session: While LISS cardio contributes to fat loss and calorie burning, the calorie expenditure during a single session may be lower compared to HIIT.
  • Limited Muscle Stimulation: LISS cardio workouts may not provide significant muscle-building or toning benefits compared to resistance training or HIIT.

“HIIT and LISS workouts offer distinct advantages depending on individual goals and preferences. HIIT, with its high-intensity intervals, stimulates greater calorie burn and can lead to improved aerobic exercise and anaerobic exercise. LISS, characterized by lower-intensity, continuous exercise, is effective for enhancing endurance and can be sustained for longer periods. The choice between HIIT and LISS should consider factors such as fitness level, available time, and individual preferences."

- Dr. Lisa Evans, Sports & Exercise Psychology Expert


Is It Better High-Intensity Interval Training or Low-Intensity Steady State for Weight Loss?

Both HIIT and LISS workouts can contribute to weight loss, but HIIT generally offers greater benefits outside the "fat-burning zone." The best approach for losing body fat may involve combining HIIT and LISS cardio workouts into your routine. This allows for variety, prevents plateaus, and balances high-intensity sessions and active recovery.

How Often Should You Do HIIT?

The frequency of HIIT (High-Intensity Interval Training) workouts depends on several factors, including your fitness level, recovery ability, and overall training program. As a general guideline, it is recommended to include HIIT sessions in your routine 2 to 3 times per week. This allows for sufficient recovery between sessions while reaping HIIT's benefits.

How Often Should You Do LISS?

The frequency of LISS (low-intensity steady state) workouts can vary based on individual preferences, fitness levels, and overall training goals. LISS is a low-intensity exercise generally considered to have a lower impact and can be performed more frequently than high-intensity workouts like HIIT. As a general guideline, you can incorporate LISS into your routine 3 to 5 times weekly.


  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4657417/
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6763680/
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5582888/
  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8294064/
  5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4612316/
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