The Case For Low-Intensity Exercise

Fitness, Healthy Living, Lifestyle, Training Advice, Training Tips

By: // February 25, 2019

In a world where you’re constantly bombarded with images of fitness celebrities with six-pack abs and exercise programs advertised to push your body to its limits, it can be hard not to feel like fitness has to be an all-or-nothing pursuit. But what happens if you can’t—or don’t want to—always exercise intensely through a sweat-dripping HIIT class or compete in hardcore triathlons? While you probably already know we’re big fans of HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) at Get Healthy U because it pushes your body to the limits for short intervals, helping you burn more calories in less time, but we’re also advocates for LISS: Low Intensity Steady State workouts. Read on to learn what constitutes a LISS workout and why everyone can benefit from incorporating low intensity cardio workouts into their weekly routine.

What is Low-Intensity Exercise?

Chris Freytag and friends walking around neighborhood with dog

Low Intensity Steady State exercise calls for 30-60 minutes spent at the fat-burning rate of 60% of maximal heart-rate effort. At this level of intensity, you can workout for longer periods of time and build endurance—not necessarily raw strength. Think: a long walk or bike ride, using the elliptical or rowing machine at the gym, etc. Consider LISS workouts to be the opposite of HIIT workouts. During HIIT, your aim is to get your heart pumping and your body working hard. You are pushing yourself to the limits with short bursts of all-out effort followed by brief periods of rest. But with LISS workouts, you’re keeping your heart rate steady as you perform a less intense form of exercise consistently—for at least 30 minutes.

Related: 3 Elliptical Workouts For Weight Loss

Benefits of Low-Intensity Exercise?

Yes, higher intensity workouts will typically burn more calories, but less intense forms of exercise do still burn calories and fat. While we’re not claiming that a daily 30-minute walk will give you six-pack abs (you need to build muscle and mix it up to lose weight and carve out your muscles), less-intense workouts do burn fat—especially the longer you spend doing them. Low intensity cardio has tons of other great benefits, too! Here are just a few:

  • Burns fat and calories
  • Improves cardiovascular function
  • Builds muscular endurance — through high number of repetitions at a low resistance
  • Boosts circulation
  • Improves mood

Many types of low intensity cardio workouts can also be done anytime, anywhere. From long walks to bike rides and everything in between, they’re low maintenance and often give you a chance to reconnect with nature and find some joy in what you’re doing. Low intensity exercise won’t necessarily build raw strength or turn you into a calorie-burning machine like a HIIT workout would—but it still burns calories, builds endurance, and benefits your body in a host of other ways. We hope you’re starting to see that less intense forms of exercise are nothing to feel guilty about; on the contrary, it’s a great way to get a workout in if your body needs a break, or you simply can’t do a more intense workout due to your age, an injury, or even preference.

Who Should Consider Low-Intensity Exercise?

Middle-aged woman stretching in park

As you age, you may notice that higher-intensity workouts are harder on your body and leave you in pain. Incorporating low intensity cardio workouts as you age is absolutely something to embrace, and definitely not feel guilty about. After all, staying fit is more about finding a form of exercise you enjoy enough to be consistent with than feeling like you need to always “punish” your body with hardcore workouts.

The truth is, though, that everyone can benefit from low intensity cardio workouts, no matter what stage of life you’re in. If you get in a hardcore HIIT workout everyday we applaud you, however, you need to give your body a break no matter your age. You can’t put your body through the same type of rigorous workouts day in and day out—it will start to crave a different form of movement. A long walk with friends, a bike ride on a sunny day, or time spent on the elliptical at a steady pace are all great workouts that are less intense but still burn calories, get your heart pumping, and help you stay physically fit. So whether you’re dealing with the aches and pains of aging, recovering from an illness, or helping your muscles recover in between more intense workouts, consider adding a LISS workout or two into your weekly routine.

Examples of Low-Intensity Cardio Exercise

There are so many great ways to get a low intensity cardio workout in—the possibilities are endless! Whether you’re reconnecting with the great outdoors or want to get your workout in at the gym, here are some of our favorite options:

  • Walking
  • Aerobics Class/Step Aerobics
  • Biking
  • Elliptical
  • Rowing Machine
  • Stand-Up Paddle-Boarding
  • Light Swimming

We also have tons of low intensity cardio workouts on Get Healthy U TV! Here are a few great LISS workouts to incorporate into your weekly routine:

10-Minute Beginner Indoor Workout

Walk & Tone 1 Mile Power Walk Chris Freytag Workout Video 1 Mile Power Walk

Fat Burning Gold Circuits

Beginner GOLD Fat Burning Circuits Workout Video

The Hidden Benefit of  Less Intense Exercise:

While we’ve talked at length about the physical benefits of less intense workouts, there’s one more thing you should consider: the mental benefits. So often, we think we have to push our bodies to the limits. But the “no pain, no gain” mentality isn’t always healthy. A less intense workout every now and then is not only physically restorative, but mentally restorative, too, helping you reconnect with your body in a form of movement that feels more natural to you. Working out to your limits each and every day can lead to burnout and irritability, and although those HIIT classes can be addictive, it pays to slow things down and give your body a less intense form of movement.

At the end of the day, you don’t need to feel guilty when you “just take a walk.” LISS exercise can and should be a big part of your workout plan. A nice long walk, a bike ride in your neighborhood, an elliptical workout, paddle boarding, or an easy, fun dance class that makes you happy are all wonderful low-intensity steady state options. When it comes to getting consistent exercise, the most important thing is to find workouts that work for you. No matter what stage of life you’re in, exercise doesn’t always have to be intense or painful to be beneficial. Embrace less-intense workouts and you’ll come to appreciate exercise for what it is: a lifestyle—not a punishment, a fad, or something that always has to leave you feeling sore the next day.


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