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Do Slow and Steady Workouts Win the Race?

| Date Posted: 7/13/2022

PINEHURST, N.C. -- In recent years, high-intensity interval training (HIIT) has been all the rage in the fitness world. Now there’s reason to believe that slow and steady cardio is the way to go for weight loss and fat burning. It's also good for your heart.


Known as low-intensity steady state (LISS) training, this method focuses on consistent effort at a lower intensity for longer periods of time. The idea is to keep your heart rate steady, at 60% to 80% of your maximum heart rate, for the entire workout.


Sarah Steadman, a personal trainer at FirstHealth Fitness in Pinehurst, said she’s glad to see some people shifting back to LISS-style training.


“From a cardiovascular standpoint, LISS is definitely more effective,” she said.


“Most people think that to improve their cardiovascular fitness every workout needs to be grueling. It’s just not true. By keeping your heart rate in a lower range, you are allowing your body to use an aerobic energy system. In other words, your body is able to get more efficient at taking in oxygen and distributing it throughout the body to muscles that need it.”


You will clearly burn calories with either kind of workout. Yet the science behind LISS shows that if your heart rate goes too high, you’re mostly burning glucose (sugar). Slower, lower-capacity workouts are better for burning body fat. They also help improve heart health because they keep your heart working at a higher-than-resting rate for extended periods of time.


“LISS cardio will lead to improved cardiovascular endurance, allow you to utilize fat as a primary energy source, and will be less likely to result in injury, especially in untrained individuals,” Steadman said.


Ready to Start?


Typical LISS workouts can last anywhere from 15 minutes for beginners to 90 minutes for more experienced exercisers. Here are some LISS activities to try:


  • Using an elliptical machine
  • Swimming at a moderate pace
  • Taking a dance class
  • Going for a hike
  • Walking fast
  • Rowing indoors or on the water at a steady pace
  • Riding a stationary bike or cycling at a moderate pace


Because the workouts tend to be lower impact, almost anyone can do them. So, if burpees or power jumps aren’t your thing, you (and your knees) can still get an effective and safe, fat-burning cardiovascular workout. Just remember that “low-intensity” and “low-impact” don’t mean chilling on the elliptical for an hour. A good rule of thumb is this: If you can easily chat with your workout bestie on the next treadmill, it’s time to step up your game.


If you are looking for a place to up your fitness game, FirstHealth Fitness is ready to help. Six medically based fitness centers in the Sandhills include state-of-the-art equipment and are staffed by college-educated trainers. FirstHealth Fitness also offers group exercise classes and massage therapy. For more information, visit our website.

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