The Un-HITT: Slow, Steady Workouts Win Races

High-intensity interval training, or HITT, revolutionized the fitness world about a dozen years ago when it was introduced as an efficient, effective way to pack all the benefits of physical activity into as little as 10 to 15 minutes.

By comparison, most types of “traditional” exercise fall into an opposite category that has its own acronym: LISS, or low-intensity, steady state activity.

Despite its name, LISS workouts typically consist of any moderate-intensity exercise that pushes your heart rate to about 50% to 70% of its maximum level — jogging, swimming or anything else that gets you to that level. The key is to be able to keep the activity going at that pace for at least half an hour, stretching it to 45 to 60 minutes over time.

LISS is essentially endurance training and is ideal before any kind of race from a 5K to a marathon. It burns calories, improves heart health and yields all the other benefits that come with keeping yourself in shape, with many of its own upsides:

  • Builds fitness for beginners — Those trying to ease themselves out of a sedentary lifestyle will probably find LISS workouts a lot more approachable than turbocharged interval training that demands 100% effort and can lead to injuries for less experienced athletes.

With the right footwear, nearly anyone can start walking half an hour two or three times a week; a great gateway to starting and meeting more fitness goals!

  • Mental health — Any kind of physical activity can increase the flow of your endorphins, but strenuous exercise can also trigger cortisol and other stress-related hormones that blunt their effect and leave you less cheery than you would be otherwise.

The steady, prolonged pace of LISS may deliver better results than HIIT with this important dimension of your overall health.

  • Low-impact or recovery workout — With the exception of running, most LISS-level workouts can be considered low-impact for joints, making them a good fit for those with joint pain and injuries, as well as for active rest days between HIIT sessions.