• Nicola Dale

LISS Cardio Explained

LISS stands for Low Intensity Steady State and is a form of cardiovascular exercise where you do aerobic activity at a low to moderate intensity for a prolonged period of time, usually for 30-90minutes. Think walking, swimming, jogging and cycling. 

Recently High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) has become hugely popular and is often believed to be more beneficial, leaving LISS with a bit of a tainted reputation. But LISS is hugely beneficial and my preferred style of cardio so here are 4 reasons you shouldn’t disregard it: 

For more information on what HIIT is click here.

1. Increased Heart Efficiency 

During exercise your body needs blood to move around your body quicker to provide your muscles with more oxygen. Your heart does this by beating faster and increasing its stroke volume (amount of blood moving with each heartbeat). LISS helps improve your heart's stroke volume meaning it doesn’t need to beat as fast to move the same amount of blood around your body, thus making your heart more efficient. This means your heart doesn’t need to work as hard when it’s at rest, resulting in a lower resting heart rate. And the benefits of a healthy, efficient heart are endless!

A man holding hands with his two kids on a walk in the woods

2. Better Endurance

We have 3 energy systems in our body; ATP-PC & Lactic Acid System (both anaerobic) and the Aerobic System. The aerobic system is the slowest at producing energy but the most efficient so it can keep you going for hours and hours on end. Both anaerobic systems are quicker at producing energy (ATP-PC being the fastest) but they can only keep you going for short bursts. Therefore, if you want to do things for an extended period of time (hikes, long runs, running around after your children all day, etc.) it’s super beneficial to work on your aerobic energy system through forms of LISS and build up your endurance. (I just want to note here you don’t solely use one energy system at a time, instead you recruit a percentage of each system depending on what you’re doing and the energy required). 

Want to start jogging to work on your endurance, here are my Top 5 Tips

3. Improved Mental Wellbeing & Better Sleep

Research shows that even just a little regular low intensity exercise can do a lot for sleep, and overall well being. One study showed that individuals who had exercised, in forms such as walking, golf and gardening, were one third less likely to report sleep problems and half as likely to report daytime tiredness. Research also shows that LISS can reduce anxiety, depression and negative mood by improving self-esteem and cognitive function. 

4. Less Physical Stress on the Body 

Low Intensity exercise places less stress on the joints and muscles making it great for beginners, injury recovery and for those who require lower impact workouts. LISS can actually help you recover between heavier sessions as it decreases inflammation by increasing blood flow to joints and muscles. By incorporating active recovery you’ll feel the benefit of daily movement whilst keeping the stress on your body low enough to let it fully recover from fatigue. If your goal is to lose weight this is very useful as more movement equals more calories burned. Yes, your HIIT session may burn more calories at the time, but that’s no good if you spend the rest of your time sedentary. So, next time you’re feeling tired and achy but still fancy a workout try going for a long walk, gentle swim or a bit of stretchy yoga. 

For more about daily movement and sedentary lifestyles read Increase your NEAT

A person in a wetsuit and orange swim cap swimming in an outdoors lake surrounded by trees and a cabin in the distance

At the end of the day both HIIT and LISS can be hugely beneficial and they both have their

have their place. Which one you choose comes down to what you enjoy and how much time you have. If you want to get a quick sweat in and only have 20mins I’d choose HIIT. If long walks or morning swims are your thing, then stick to that. You don’t have to pick one or the other, incorporate both when and where you feel like it and you’ll feel the benefits.

For more reasons to make exercise a habit and tips on how to do so check out

- Reasons to Exercise that aren't weight loss

- 5 Tips for Making Exercise a Habit


‘Cardiac Output’:

Foster C, Farland CV, Guidotti F, et al. The Effects of High Intensity Interval Training vs Steady State Training on Aerobic and Anaerobic Capacity. J Sports Sci Med. 2015;14(4):747-755. Published 2015 Nov 24.

‘HIIT Training vs LISS Workout: Which Is Best?’;

‘Research Notes: 5 Surprising Facts about Exercise and Sleep’; AASM, 2013

Sharma A, Madaan V, Petty FD. Exercise for mental health. Prim Care Companion J Clin Psychiatry. 2006;8(2):106. 

‘What is Active Recovery and How to Do it’; Turner, 2019, Polar Blogs

‘You Need Long Duration, Low Intensity Cardio’; Robertson, 2013

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