LISS Vs. HIIT Workouts: Which is Better for You?
Page last updated: 22nd March 2023
Whether you want to burn fat, increase your stamina, or improve your overall health, ensuring you include cardio workouts into your weekly fitness routines is a great place to start when looking to build fitness and exercise more.
But not all cardio workouts are the same - they can almost always be separated into LISS or HIIT training styles. Which you choose can depend on your goals, fitness levels, preferences and lifestyle, but is one better than the other? We explain what differentiates each of the cardio styles, and which could be the most beneficial for you.
What is a LISS Workout?
LISS stands for Low-intensity Steady State cardio. LISS workouts are longer, consistently paced cardiovascular sessions which work at a target heart rate of 45-65%, usually for around 30-60 minutes.
The aim is to maintain a steady heart rate and burn calories without putting too much stress on the body.
LISS sessions can include:
- Climbing stairs (on a stepper)
- Steady cycling
What Is A HIIT Workout?
High-intensity interval training (HIIT) is a type of cardio workout that combines short, intense bursts of activity, usually lasting between 10-60 seconds, with periods of complete rest or low-intensity active recovery. Heart rate should reach around 80-95% and drop back down to 40-50%.
Some favourite HIIT exercises include:
What Are The Differences Between A LISS And A HIIT Workout?
LISS workouts are consistent – you’ll work at low-to-mid-intensity for the full session and maintain a steady state of effort throughout. Meanwhile, HIIT workouts combine alternating bursts of maximum intensity and periods of complete rest or active recovery.
LISS and HIIT workouts have many shared benefits, although which type is the most effective for fat burning and muscle gain is hotly debated in the fitness world. Both offer the benefit of boosting cardiovascular fitness and endurance, as well as all the mental health benefits of exercise. However, the major differences come when we look at the unique benefits each offers:
What Are The Benefits Of LISS Cardio Workouts?
There are several benefits to LISS exercises – some are shared with HIIT, and a couple are unique:
- Low impact: LISS training is easy on the joints, so perfect for people who are prone to injury or with chronic conditions
- Burns more calories from fat than glycogen: while the number of calories burned from a LISS workout may be lower than HIIT, it relies more on fat as its energy source, as the body is able to supply more oxygen at a steady pace. This means it’s often touted as an effective way to burn fat.
- Increases blood flow and oxygen to the muscles: this can help reduce muscle soreness and speed up recovery after high-intensity exercise or strength training.
- Easier to do with others: thanks to its low-intensity nature, LISS is a sociable form of exercise that’s perfect for enjoying with friends.
- Affordable and accessible: Hop on your bike or simply head out for a walk, there’s no need for exercise equipment or a gym membership as you can do LISS exercise pretty much anywhere.
- Easier to be consistent: thanks to accessibility, it’s much easier to commit to several LISS sessions a week on an ongoing basis.
- Simple: no need for complicated workout plans, you can simply head out for a walk when you have time.
The results of LISS workouts have been proven, and because the sessions are lower impact than HIIT, there’s less chance of injury which could prevent training altogether. The lower intensity of LISS workouts also means they’re more enjoyable for many people – the consistent work is less likely to induce stress than a HIIT session, making LISS a good choice if you work out to improve mental wellbeing.
The Benefits Of HIIT Cardio Workouts
HIIT sessions are favoured by many for their intense calorie burning, and because they stimulate the metabolism to burn calories at a higher rate post-workout, in a state called EPOC. We’ve written in more detail about the benefits of HIIT workouts here, but some of the key reasons you might opt for a HIIT workout over LISS exercise include:
- Time efficient: By nature, HIIT workouts are usually shorter than steady-state workouts (because, as the name suggests, they’re more intense) - this makes them a great option if you’re limited on time.
- Increased calorie burn: the high-intensity nature of HIIT means you’re burning more calories when moving. However they also increase your metabolic rate, so you’ll continue to burn calories even after the workout is over.
- Improved cardio fitness: The intense bursts of exercise increase heart rate and oxygen consumption, helping to improve your cardiovascular health.
- Increased muscle strength: HIIT exercise can help to build muscle strength and endurance at a greater rate than LISS.
What Is Better - HIIT Workouts Or LISS Exercise?
HIIT is effective, there’s no doubt about it. If you’re looking for a short yet intense workout, a HIIT session is ideal. The high-intensity of these workouts not only burns more calories, but can improve athletic performance, and because so many HIIT exercises require no equipment, they’re easy to get into.
If you’re training towards a competition or event, HIIT is an excellent way to achieve fast results.
For more on HIIT, as well as some inspiration for your next workout, check out some of our guides below:
- HIIT workouts for beginners
- 3 HIIT workouts for weight and fat loss
- Four 20-minute HIIT workouts
- Quick full-body HIIT workout for the gym
- HIIT workouts with weights
- 10 low impact HIIT exercises that won't hurt your knees or back
However, if you’re looking for a more comfortable workout that you can maintain for an extended period, LISS could be the way to go. It’s ideal for tacking onto the end of a weight training workout to burn additional calories, improve cardio health, enhance recovery and burn fat, without tiring yourself out too much further.
You can learn more about steady-state workouts with these guides:
- Walking for weight loss
- Learn to love the rower
- Cycling exercises
- How to stay comfy while workout out on a bike
Check out our free workouts page for total body HIIT workout ideas you can try at home or in the gym.
Our gyms are designed for all types of cardio so make sure you join our amazing 24 hour gyms near you or come and speak with one of our personal trainers today. Every Body Welcome!