When it comes to modern day fitness, you can’t turn the page of a magazine or click on a website without coming across high-intensity interval training (HIIT) articles. Every last one talks about burning calories for hours or even days after a workout and that if you’re not doing HIIT, you’re wasting your time. Blah blah blah. Its out of control and it needs to stop.
HIIT has it’s place of course, particularly at the end of leg day for 4-10 bouts of short 10-30 second sprints (with a good chunk of recovery). Maybe twice a week. Tops. But so does low-intensity steady state (LISS) cardio. More important for body development is lifting, but that’s a topic for another day.
LISS gets a bad rap in research when compared with HIIT, where you can achieve similar if not better results to body composition, aerobic capacity, and muscular endurance and more. And rightly so, but rarely do people chat about how hard HIIT workouts are on the body. If you’re asking for maximum effort, the demand placed on the body is incredibly high. The body is a simple machine. Put too much stress on it, and eventually things break down.
Here’s where LISS is so valuable. LISS allows you to keep moving, get bodily fluids pumping and encourages recovery from those tough workout days. And no, this is not the same as running 10 miles as a “recovery day”. That’s not recovery. That’s achievement. It’s counterintuitive if your goal is to improve your body and not travel great distances on foot. If you want to be a better runner, variations on your long distance cardio is a must, but be mindful it doesn’t have as big of an impact on your body as you think if that’s your goal. You’re becoming a better runner in that instance. There’s a difference.
It doesn’t even have to be challenging cardio when it comes to LISS. A solid walk will do. Plus you get most of the same cardiovascular benefits (decreased hypertension, lower cholesterol, improvements to diabetes, etc.) as you would while running AND you get the chance to help your body recover. Sounds like a win-win to me!
Not every workout needs to be a knock-down, drag out brawl with your body. Sometimes, a stroll will do just fine. Remember, this is not about walking being better than running. It's about using LISS as a measure of recovery and how it allows you to stay active on off days.
So how long? 20-30 minutes works well for most, but if you have the time and something to watch on Netflix, 45-60 will do.