HIIT vs LISS: What’s the deal with these acronyms?

Before we hop into the meat and potatoes of this article, I want to preface by saying that this is specifically directed toward those who are looking to lose body fat. If that’s not you, I would encourage you to keep reading anyway. Perhaps you’ll want to in the future or you’ll be able to share the information with a friend. Regardless, that being said, let’s get right into the topic at hand: HIIT vs. LISS.

So, what are these acronyms all about?

At the core, HIIT and LISS are two different approaches to cardiovascular activity.


LISS, or low intensity steady state, is typically longer in duration and higher intensity. It’s often less motivating for people since you’re doing the same thing for a long period of time. One of the biggest benefits people see in LISS activity is the initial increase in caloric burn. However, the body adapts quickly and these results can diminish after the first few weeks. After this adaptation period, you’ll have to add more and more minutes onto an already long workout. Typically, this is where HIIT comes into play.



HIIT, or high intensity interval training, is typically shorter in duration and higher intensity. There is a slightly higher injury risk and impact, depending on the type of equipment chosen. As I mentioned, for long-term fat loss, it’s usually incorporated after the body adapts to the LISS sessions. One of the big benefits of HIIT lies in EPOC, or excess post-exercise oxygen consumption. (Another acronym, I know. Bear with me.) EPOC is the calories burned following a workout. As the body recovers from the intense training session, it burns more calories than in a resting state. EPOC is not see with LISS sessions because the intensity isn’t high enough.


Is one better than the other?

As with most things in the health and fitness space, my answer remains, “Nope! They’re different!” Both have a place within a well-rounded program, even with a common goal of fat loss.

If you’re short on time and need to get in a quick workout, HIIT is the choice for you!

If you have a little bit longer time and want to get in a nice walk outside to enjoy the weather, incorporate a LISS session!

Both have a variety of benefits including improvement in cardiovascular health, stronger heart and lungs, increased muscular endurance, and a caloric burn to further add to the deficit required for fat loss. If you’re training for a general lifestyle goal, my recommendation is to include a little of both based on your preference and time allotted for that day’s training session. However, if you’re training for a 5k or other race, you’re going to want to add in more steady state runs. If you’re trying to improve a time on a race, adding in some speed work, or HIIT, can help you push the speed on your steady state runs.

Personally, at this time, I also incorporate a mix of both. Not only do I get bored easily, but changing up my cardio allows me to keep variety in my program and reap some of the benefits of both HIIT and LISS.

Where are some workout recommendations? Where do I start?

LISS is simple. Choose a pace that you can maintain for 30+ minutes, hop on your favorite piece of cardio equipment, and just start! If it’s a nice day, you can even take it outside for a walk or a run. The key is to work at a pace that you’re able to maintain for a longer period of time. You don’t want to have to stop after only 10-15 minutes. Think like a turtle; slow and steady wins the race here.

HIIT is slightly more complex. To truly engage in HIIT activity, you want the intervals to be truly all out intensity and then allow yourself to recover in between each. The term ‘Interval Training’ is different. It’s a combination of higher intensity and lower intensity intervals, but you don’t have to work at an all-out intensity. However, the secret lies with true HIIT and we have to be sure to gauge the intensity, to exert maximum effort. The bike is my favorite form of HIIT cardio. It’s a lower impact option, as compared to sprints, and mixes it up from my LISS runs.

That’s it. Two methods of cardio, broken down. As with many things, there’s no absolutes, only facts to decipher and ultimately decide how we want to add them into our lifestyles!

Do you currently have a favorite form of cardio? Do you have more questions about the HIIT vs. LISS debate? Let me know! Check me out on Twitter and Instagram, shoot me an email at emilymeyerfitness@gmail.com or leave a comment below!


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