Low-intensity steady-state cardio, more commonly known as LISS training, is far less well known than its counterpart, the HIIT workout.
Yet, it’s practiced by many beginners without knowing what it is or how they can leverage it to burn body fat more efficiently.
In over ten years of helping people achieve their fitness goals, I’ve always started beginners out with low-intensity steady-state cardio.
And having recently reviewed some scientific literature on LISS, I’m going to share the best way to do it for optimal fat loss.
Let’s get started.
- To lose fat through LISS cardio, perform your workouts at low intensity for a long period of time.
- Swimming, rowing, brisk walking, and elliptical are examples of LISS workout routines.
- Perform at least LISS exercises at least three times a week for optimal results.
- LISS can be tailored to different age groups, which makes it an especially versatile style of training.
How Does LISS Cardio Burn Fat?
LISS cardio burns fat by having you perform low-intensity cardio for an extended period of time. I've found that the most important thing to keep in mind when doing LISS cardio is to keep it low-intensity and go at a steady pace, typically between 45 and 60 minutes.
Keeping a steady pace means exercising at 50–60% of your maximum heart rate (MHR).
Your MHR is the upper limit of your cardiovascular endurance.
The best way to figure this out is to find your heart rate as you sprint using a heart rate monitor.
If you're a beginner or recovering from an injury, we recommend calculating yours using a simple formula suggested by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):
MHR (beats per minute) = 220 - your age .
Multiply the answer with 0.5 and 0.65 to find your LISS target heart rate zone.
Using a heart rate monitor, track your heart rate and make sure it’s in the low-intensity zone.
“Simply put, you can think of LISS exercise as what public health professionals have been promoting for decades — exercise that is aerobic in nature — such as walking, cycling, and swimming.”
- Dr. Peter T. Katzmarzyk, PhD, FTOS
Best Ways to Do It
I've done dozens of various LISS programs, and I can tell you there isn't one best way to do it. Any workout where your heart rate is between 50–60% of the maximum value for your age and goes on for 45–60 minutes is good LISS.
If your goal is to burn excess fat, here are some of our clients’ favorite LISS workouts:
- Brisk walking: This is a slow, intense, yet effective way of burning fat. I recommend walking on an incline to lose belly fat or strolling on a hilly path to increase your fat-burning potential.
- Rowing: Rowing for 30 minutes at a moderate pace is an effective exercise for weight loss that will keep you in the perfect MHR zone.
- Elliptical: This option is for those who have bad knees but are willing to put in a good deal of effort. The best part about the elliptical for burning belly fat is that it's not age-specific. You can pedal forward for 20 minutes and pedal backward for another 20.
- Swimming: Swimming for weight loss is the ultimate, full-body workout that puts little to no pressure on your joints while giving you an intense workout. To do this efficiently, swim with a stroke you find easiest and move around the pool for 30–40 minutes.
Benefits of LISS
In my history of training clients, LISS exercises seem to be more popular among them. Here are some of the reasons why.
The rule of thumb is that you don’t start a beginner off with HIIT sessions. LISS workouts allow beginners to start their exercise program at fairly moderate intensity while still keeping a brisk pace.
A 2014 study found that continuous exercise done at a lower intensity could be more effective than HIIT workouts in terms of improving fat distribution in overweight adults .
Exercising for longer periods of time with lower intensity cardio can put less pressure on your heart and lungs. This is a great way to slowly build endurance over time.
Quicker Recovery Time
Compared to HIIT workouts for fat loss, LISS might take longer to get through, but the recovery periods are much faster, which is ideal for beginners or anyone who doesn’t want to pant after their workout.
LISS for Different Age Groups
Based on my experience with LISS, I can say it's not a one-size-fits-all approach and can be particularly beneficial when tailored to different age groups.
For seniors, LISS is a safe and effective way to maintain cardiovascular health without the joint strain that comes with high-impact exercises. Activities like brisk walking or gentle cycling can improve heart health, increase mobility, and enhance overall well-being.
For adolescents and younger individuals, LISS can serve as a foundation for developing a lifelong habit of regular exercise. It's a non-intimidating start into the world of fitness, promoting healthy growth and development.
By understanding and applying these age-specific approaches to LISS, individuals can maximize the benefits of their exercise regimen, ensuring it aligns with their body's needs and capabilities at every stage of life.
How Many LISS Sessions Should I Do Per Week?
Aim to do at least three LISS sessions per week. Once you get the hang of it, incorporate HIIT cardio twice a week.
Is LISS Cardio Better for Fat Burning Than HIIT?
Yes, LISS cardio can be better for fat burning than HIIT, but it depends on the individual.
While HIIT burns more calories in a shorter period of time, LISS allows you to go at a steady state and burn calories at your pace without gassing out.
When Should I Do LISS for Optimal Fat Loss?
You should do LISS whenever you have time for optimal fat loss. There is no ideal time of the day to do LISS to burn fat. What matters more is how long you do it.
How Much LISS Should You Do to Lose Weight?
You should do 30–60 minutes of LISS at least three times a week to lose weight. On the other days, you can incorporate high-intensity cardio sessions; but limit them to twice a week.
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