LISS: The low-intensity workout with big cardio benefits

I’ve never been a fan of heavy-duty exercise workouts. But now that I’m 65, I need a reliable way to stay flexible, keep my weight under control —and, most importantly, maintain a healthy heart.

I just don’t want to muscle through boring, strenuous exercise routines that leave me feeling wasted instead of healthier. Also, I’m an “exercise beginner.” For me, the popular high-intensity interval training method would be too strenuous.

If you’re like me, I’ve got good news for you. I’ve discovered a new brand of cardio exercise that is gentler on your body, provides variety and doesn’t leave you feeling like your heart is going to jump right out of your chest!

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What is low-intensity steady state cardio?

Low-intensity steady state (LISS) is a method of cardiovascular exercise that involves doing some type of aerobic activity at a low to moderate intensity for a continuous period of time — think swimming, biking, or walking on a treadmill.

High-intensity interval training (HIIT), on the other hand, has you alternating short, intense periods of activity, like sprinting hard for 20 minutes, with recovery exercise, like walking for one minute.

HIIT makes your heart pound — about 95 percent of your maximum heart rate for the high-intensity intervals.

Compare that with LISS cardio, where you’re aiming for only 50 to 65 percent of your maximum heart rate.

The only downside to a LISS workout, if you can really call it a downside, is that workouts take more time — so if weight loss is your goal, that could take a little longer, too.

But for those of us who are retired, time is exactly what we’ve got…

Why is LISS good for seniors?

LISS cardio is ideally suited for older adults and those with conditions like arthritis.

LISS is low-impact exercise, so your chance of injury is much smaller than with HIIT.

Because HIIT requires you to go hard and fast, you can easily end up pushing past your limits if you’re not careful. Ignoring your body’s signals to ease up can make you dizzy or nauseous, or cause injury.

Common injuries include torn ligaments, swollen muscles, and even slipped discs. Research also shows that HIIT can affect balance and increase the risk of a fall up to thirty minutes following a workout.

In contrast, LISS doesn’t require you to do more than you’re comfortable with or strain your joints and muscles to the max, which means you can exercise more frequently.

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Examples of LISS workouts

Pretty much anyone can get started right now with LISS cardio exercise. Here are some things you can try:

  • Cycle at a gentle speed on flat terrain for 30-60 minutes.
  • Use a rowing machine at a consistent stroke rate and intensity for a set time over 30 minutes.
  • Swim for 60 minutes using breaststroke.
  • Jog at 5mph for 45 minutes.
  • Walk at 3mph for 60 minutes — that’s roughly 100 steps per minute.

And if you’re someone who needs a group setting to motivate you, find your local fitness center and try a spin class.

A spin class is a “sweat session” where a group of people rides exercise bikes at a pace set by the instructor. With encouragement and fast-paced music, you’ll be spurred to go that extra mile, burn more calories, and increase your metabolism, all without harming your joints or pushing yourself beyond your limits.

However you choose to get started, it’s always best to check with your doctor before beginning any new exercise program.

If HIIT is the hare, think of LISS as the tortoise — taking the slow and steady approach to improving your cardiovascular health and getting all the benefits of aerobic exercise. 

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Sources:

What Are Low Intensity Steady State (LISS) Workouts? — Matrix Age Management

Is HIIT Safe for Older Adults? — Silver Sneakers

What is LISS Cardio? Is It Right for You as a Woman Over 50? — Inspire My Style

What is LISS cardio? — Live Science

Aerobic exercise: Top 10 reasons to get physical — Mayo Clinic

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Joyce Hollman

By Joyce Hollman

Joyce Hollman is a writer based in Kennebunk, Maine, specializing in the medical/healthcare and natural/alternative health space. Health challenges of her own led Joyce on a journey to discover ways to feel better through organic living, utilizing natural health strategies. Now, practicing yoga and meditation, and working towards living in a chemical-free home, her experiences make her the perfect conduit to help others live and feel better naturally.