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Have you heard or seen the term “LISS cardio” and thought, “Oh, no — not another exercise acronym”?

If you’re overwhelmed by all the acronyms related to workouts, you’re not alone. Fortunately, LISS cardio is a pretty straightforward concept. The abbreviation stands for “low-intensity steady-state.”

We’ll take a deep dive into what LISS cardio is, along with its benefits and drawbacks, so you can decide if it’s right for you.

Low-intensity steady-state, or LISS, is a method of cardiovascular exercise in which you do aerobic activity at a low-to-moderate intensity for a continuous, and often extended, period.

“LISS” is a newer term used to describe a low-intensity style of training, but this form of exercise has been around for decades.

You may also know it as:

  • low-intensity exercise
  • steady-state training (SST)
  • continuous cardiovascular exercise
  • long slow distance (LSD) training
LISS Heart rate goal

When doing LISS cardio, the goal is to keep your heart rate around 50 to 65 percent of your maximum heart rate.

It’s the opposite of high-intensity interval training (HIIT), which involves alternating short bursts of intense exercise with low-intensity recovery periods.

With HIIT, your heart rate is generally at 80 to 95 percent of your maximum heart rate for the high-intensity intervals and 40 to 50 percent for the low-intensity intervals.

LISS is most often associated with running, cycling, brisk walking, swimming, and other cardio activities that require longer sessions of low-intensity exercise.

The American Council on Exercise points out that while steady-state training is an effective way to burn calories and train your aerobic system, it also requires more time to get results.

Some people say HIIT is a better form of training than steady-state cardio. But while both styles have advantages and disadvantages, one doesn’t seem to be better overall than the other.

In fact, one study found no real advantage to doing very high-intensity training as compared with steady-state cardio.

Like other forms of exercise, LISS cardio has many health benefits, including improved blood flow, reduced stress, lower risk of heart disease, and improved brain function.

Here are some other benefits of LISS cardio:

  • It aids in fat burning and fat loss. Steady-state training improves your body’s ability to use fat as fuel instead of using glycogen stored in your muscles. Also, according to a 2014 study, continuous aerobic exercise is more effective than HIIT at improving fat distribution.
  • It’s appropriate for all levels. Since LISS is easier to do and gentler on the body, it’s appropriate for beginners. Intermediate to advanced fitness levels often use it as part of an endurance training program.
  • It allows for easier recovery. Because you’re putting less stress on your heart and body, you may find you recover more quickly and easily from LISS.
  • It’s an effective way to train for endurance events. Exercising at a lower intensity for a long period of time puts less stress on your heart and lungs than a more-intense workout. This can be an effective way to prepare for an endurance event.
  • It’s also great for recovery after a difficult workout. You can use LISS as a recovery session the day after a high-intensity workout.

Just like any form of exercise, LISS has some drawbacks:

  • It requires longer cardio sessions, typically at least 45 to 60 minutes long.
  • You may get bored doing the same exercise at the same intensity for a long time. Consider working out with a friend or listening to a favorite podcast or playlist while you’re exercising.
  • You may increase your risk of overuse injuries if you do the same type of workout too often.

LISS cardio is a good addition to most fitness routines because it’s generally safe and appropriate for all fitness levels.

If you can easily fit a 45- to 60-minute cardio workout into your schedule, and you prefer a steady pace to switching up the intensity, then LISS may be the right choice for you.

If you need to train for an endurance event like a 10K, half marathon, triathlon, or cycling race, you’ll likely use steady-state cardio several times a week. This is called the principle of specificity, which means you’re training in the same format you will compete in.

Incorporating LISS cardio into your exercise program is easy to do.

  • If you’re a beginner, aim to do three LISS cardio sessions per week.
  • If you’re at an intermediate or advanced level, try to include one or two sessions of LISS cardio and one or two sessions of HIIT per week.
  • All fitness levels should also aim to include strength training exercises for all the major muscles at least 2 or 3 days per week.

If you belong to a gym or have home cardio equipment such as a treadmill, elliptical, rower, or exercise bike, you can do LISS cardio by using one or more of these machines at a steady pace for 45 to 60 minutes.

If you prefer exercising outdoors, you can hit the pavement for a long run or bike ride or head to the hills for a hike. Walking at a moderate pace is another excellent form of LISS training.

If you think you’ll get bored doing the same type of workout, you can mix things up by doing a HIIT routine 1 or 2 days a week. Remember, since HIIT is high-intensity, you need to work out for only 20 to 30 minutes.

LISS, or low-intensity steady-state cardio, is most often associated with running, cycling, swimming, brisk walking, and other cardio activities that require low-intensity exercise for longer periods, typically 45 to 60 minutes.

Research has shown that LISS cardio may help burn fat more effectively than higher-intensity workouts. It’s well suited to all fitness levels and is an especially helpful form of training for an endurance event.

For maximum benefits and to avoid a plateau, try to include both HIIT and LISS sessions in your fitness plan.

If you have any health concerns, be sure to talk to your doctor before starting any new exercise routine.