When we talk about cardio, most people immediately think low intensity steady state activities (LISS) – does the treadmill spring to mind, anyone? While jogging is a popular cardio activity, it’s not the only way to get a cardio workout – what a relief! I know some people swear by jogging but I’ve never enjoyed it myself. I love sprinting but anything that requires running for more than a short burst just bores me. I spend the whole time bargaining with myself to get through it! If you’re the same, the good news is that there are other ways to get a good cardio workout without running for hours on end.
High intensity interval training (HIIT) is a form of cardio workout I can get behind! You can use pretty much any equipment, or no equipment at all, and the workouts are usually much quicker. Don’t be fooled though, just because it is relatively quick doesn’t mean it’s easy! The point of HIIT is that it is high intensity – so to get the most out of the workout you really need to push yourself! Some people love this style of training (me included) but it isn’t for everyone. So, if you’re new to training and are unsure of what cardio you should do, or want to make sure you’re doing the best type of training to achieve your goals, I’ve set out a comparison below of LISS v HIIT to help you plan your workouts and decide what type of training you want to focus on (of course, they aren’t mutually exclusive – you can always do both!).
Put simply, LISS is a method of cardio exercise where you do aerobic activity at a low-to-moderate intensity for a continuous period of time. This intensity remains steady and the activity usually lasts for an extended period of time. When doing LISS, the goal is to keep your heart rate at about 50 – 65% of your maximum heart rate.
LISS is often associated with jogging, cycling, brisk walking, swimming, and other cardio activities that require longer sessions of low-intensity exercise. One of the benefits of LISS is that it’s an extremely effective way of burning calories. It can also be an effective form of stress relief for those who enjoy it. LISS can also improve blood flow, lower the risk of heart disease and improved brain function.
The downside of LISS is that it isn’t particularly time efficient. While it burns a lot of calories, the low intensity nature of the exercise means that you have to do it for a prolonged period of time to see results. Some people may find this type of training boring. It also increases the risk of overuse injuries, as you are using the same muscles over and over again for prolonged periods of time.
HIIT involves alternating short bursts of intense exercise with low-intensity recovery periods. When doing HIIT, the aim is to get your heart rate at about 80 to 95 percent of your maximum heart rate for the high-intensity intervals and for it to be at around 40 to 50 percent for the low-intensity recovery periods.
A benefit of HIIT is that you can get maximum health benefits with minimal time investment, and can be done from home with little or no equipment. Also, the amount of time you spend on each interval can vary – one of the great things about HIIT is that you can tailor it to whatever type of exercise you like. HIIT can burn a large number of calories in a short period of time, and also causes your metabolism to be higher for hours after the exercise. HIIT exercise can also help you build muscle which will, over time, increase your basal metabolic rate. It can also have a positive imact on your blood pressure and heart rate.
One of the disadvantages of HIIT is that your need to really push yourself to get the best results. This can put strain on your body, so you need to make sure you have warmed up properly in order to minimise the risk of injury. Beginners should be especially careful to make sure that they warm up properly and use correct form for whatever style of exercise they choose.
Both HIIT and LISS have their advantages, and overall one isn’t inherently better than the other, so really it just depends on what you enjoy and what you’ll stick with. One of the best ways of reaching your goals and sticking with a routine is to pick a form of exercise that you enjoy, so try both out and see what works for you!