If you had to choose the best runner, a sprinter or a marathoner, the answer would depend on the type of race. In a 200m run, the sprinter will have an advantage over the marathoner, but if it takes, say, 18 miles, the marathoner will outrun the sprinter.


Here’s how you should think about high-intensity interval training and low-intensity steady-state cardio. One type of workout isn’t necessarily better than the other, but one might be more right for you, depending on your fitness goals.

What exactly is the difference between HIIT and LISS cardio? HIIT involves alternating short periods of intense effort with periods of rest or active recovery. There are many ways to do HIIT, but some of the most popular work-to-rest ratios are 30 seconds of work and 30 seconds of rest, 45 seconds of work and 15 seconds of rest, or alternating four minutes between 20 seconds of work and 10 seconds of rest. seconds rest (also known as Tabata).


LISS cardio is low-intensity exercise, like walking, jogging and cycling, at a relatively easy pace.

Whether you’re looking to go for a marathon, a mud run, or an endurance-based activity, put some energy into LISS. But if you’re looking to be more explosive, athletic, or build muscle, HIIT workouts are best suited to help you do that, says personal trainer Rafique Flex Cabral.

To help you decide which type of exercise is best for you, here are several scenarios where HIIT or LISS might be more beneficial.

If you are new to exercise and just want to get moving

Whether you’re new to the gym or are returning to training after a break, LISS is a good way to make exercise easier. Because you’re working at a lower intensity, you may be able to exercise for a longer period of time and exercise more consistently. HIIT workouts, while shorter, require more effort from the muscles and can be stressful on the joints.

Seniors get great results with LISS cardio as it improves their bone density and musculoskeletal health, in turn promoting healthier aging. These benefits also allow for a convenient means to promote positive improvements in the ability to perform activities of daily living, says Lisa Reed, performance coach and owner of Lisa Reed Fitness, LLC.


If you want to lose weight and boost your metabolism

Doing any type of LISS cardio will burn calories, helping you hit the calorie deficit needed to lose weight. But increasing the intensity of your workout will ultimately help you burn more calories, giving HIIT an edge.

LISS is great for improving endurance activities and cardiovascular work capacity, and aids in weight loss and recovery. But if you’re looking to build muscle, which helps burn fat, LISS might not be the best thing to add to your routine frequently, explains Cabral.

HIIT helps you build and maintain moderate amounts of lean muscle mass. It also produces an afterburn effect called excess post-exercise oxygen consumption, says Cabral. EPOC is the amount of calories burned long after your workout has ended, and HIIT is the most effective workout for stimulating EPOC, according to the American Council on Exercise.

The afterburn effect of EPOC can last anywhere from 12 to 48 hours, according to the ACE. (With HIIT) you’ll produce an afterburn with 25 percent more calories burned post-workout than with a run or walk, says Reed, and your metabolism can be boosted by up to 10 percent for three days after a HIIT workout. Maintaining a routine that involves HIIT training three to four times a week will help increase the post-workout effect on your metabolism, explains Cabral.

If you want to improve your athletic performance

Incorporating resistance training into your HIIT workouts can help build and maintain muscle, especially type two fast-twitch muscle fibers, which are needed for athletic movement, says Cabral.

You have two different muscle fibers: type 1 (slow twitch muscle fibers) and type 2 (fast twitch muscle fibers). Your type 1 muscle fibers are built for endurance activities, like running a marathon and cycling long distances, while type 2 muscle fibers are made for quick, explosive movement. Think: sprints, jumping, and heavy lifting.

So if you have a goal of improving the height of your jumps or increasing the load of your deadlifts, then HIIT is the way to go.

That said, HIIT is extremely taxing on the body, so you shouldn’t do it every day. Doing HIIT two to three times a week is more than enough, and you should aim to recover at least 48 hours between your workouts, according to the ACE.

LISS cardio is a great way to add variety to your workouts and prevent overtraining. Mixing in some low-intensity work, like walking or taking a leisurely bike ride or swimming, allows you to get some movement while your muscles repair themselves.

If you don’t have much time to train

What’s great about HIIT is that you don’t have to work nearly as hard as LISS cardio to get an effective workout, and you can customize your workout with different exercises and equipment.

HIIT workouts are an excellent way to increase the intensity of your workout in a short amount of time of 20 minutes or less. You can also keep things interesting by switching up the sequence or swapping different exercises from strength to high-intensity movement, Reed says.

For example, doing a HIIT workout that involves performing squats followed by jumping rope will blast fat, burn calories and activate muscle strength, says Reed.

In fact, a small study in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research compared the calorie expenditure of nine healthy men doing 30 minutes of strength training, endurance cycling, endurance running on a treadmill, and HIIT training. The results showed that HIIT burned more calories than the other three workouts, suggesting you can burn more calories with a 30-minute HIIT workout than doing steady-state cardio in the same amount of time.

That’s not to say you can’t get a great workout with LISS cardio too. LISS cardio can help you get more moving into your day while reaping the benefits of exercise. But HIIT can be beneficial if you want to get more out of your workout in less time.

How can you make your HIIT and LISS workouts more challenging?

To enhance your LISS cardio workouts, Cabral recommends adding different types of activity to your routine, such as running, biking, swimming, and rowing.

When it comes to HIIT, Cabral says experimenting with different variables can spice things up. Some ideas: Decrease rest time by increasing work time or increasing both work and rest periods, adding more rounds, and increasing weights for strength-based movements, says Cabral.

How many times a week should you do HIIT and LISS training?

Reed recommends incorporating both LISS cardio and HIIT into your workout routine to reap the health benefits. My philosophy has always been that every little thing matters. Walk for at least 30 minutes, five times a week, and do a HIIT workout two to three times a week for 10 to 20 minutes per workout, suggests Reed.

Another great way to add both LISS cardio and HIIT to your routine: Do a 15-minute HIIT workout followed by 30 minutes of LISS cardio. You’ll burn more calories from fat when you follow HIIT with any LISS activity, Reed says.

Cabral recommends following a 2:1 HIIT/LISS ratio to build muscle, and if your goal is more endurance-based, reverse that ratio.

For starters, Cabral suggests working out two to three times a week, working up to three to five times a week.

Your fitness goals will determine the balance of what you need to be able to look and perform the way you want. Everyone is different, so finding that balance might take a bit of trial and error, which is ultimately worth it when you find what works best for you, says Cabral.

This article was originally published on TODAY.com

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