Fitness Tips

Low-Intensity Exercise: How to Tone Up by Toning it Down

How to Get Fit with Low Intensity Exercise pinLow-intensity exercise tends to get overshadowed by the high-intensity variety, such as HIIT. (High-intensity interval training.)

It’s not hard to see why; we live in the society where everyone is eternally crunched for time. Anything that promises the best results in the least amount of time is going to win over a lot of people.

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I’m included in those numbers and and haven’t been shy about proclaiming my love for HIIT, and fitness programs like The Bodyboss Method. (Amazon affiliate link!)

Related: HIIT Benefits Make for the Holy Grail of Exercise

But HIIT actually has two equally wonderful siblings: LIIT, and LISS. (Low Intensity Interval Training and Low Intensity Steady State.)

While HIIT is admittedly not for everyone, LIIT and LISS is. Yes, even for time-poor, busy people!

Let’s look at the case for low-intensity exercise.

Disclaimer: I’m not a personal trainer, doctor, or someone who is in any way certified to give advice regarding your health. Below is just my experience and ideas for your information, but any kind of exercise or decisions you make for your health should be first discussed with your doctor.

Benefits of Low-Intensity Exercise:

It turns out that low-intensity exercise can be just as effective as it’s high-intensity counterpart!

But here’s the rub: Your workout needs to be twice as long to see the same kind of calorie burn. Most LIIT and LISS sessions should be at least 40 minutes long.

Even so, there’s any number of reasons why you might opt for a LIIT or LISS  workout, such as:

While recovering from an injury: Low-intensity exercise won’t contain plyometrics or other high impact moves that can overexert muscles or put stress on joints.

To compliment your HIIT regime: HIIT works best if you only do it three times a week, making low intensity exercise perfect for those in between days.

If you’re very new to exercise: If it’s been a long time since you’ve done any exercise, starting with lower intensity is a great way to ease into an exercise routine without risking injury.

To focus more on form: Since you’re not ripping through several exercises in rapid succession, it’s easier to focus on proper form. Form is crucial to preventing injury and maximizing the effectiveness of each exercise!

To stay motivated: High-intensity workouts are hard and really physically taxing. But low-intensity exercises can be easy and even relaxing, making LIIT and LISS workouts much easier to stick to.

Types of low-intensity exercise

Let’s look at the two types of low-intensity exercise:

LIIT: Low-Intensity Interval Training

Just like the high-intensity version, LIIT consists of intervals of exercise with rest periods. The difference is that the intervals of exercise are nearly as high-impact, which means your heart rate shouldn’t get up to more than 60-70% of your max heart rate, whereas with HIIT your target is 85% of your maximum heart rate. The rest periods are also generally longer.

LISS: Low-Intensity Steady State

LISS is basically a fancy term for steady, moderate exercise. Examples include jogging, vinyasa yoga, power-walking or cycling.

Kayla Itsines, a fitness guru and creator the Bikini Body Guide, is a huge advocate of LISS. In fact, her signature program mandates 4 LISS sessions per week in between the HIIT workouts. (She confesses to not being much of a runner herself and sticks to walking)

Related: Does Walking for Weight Loss and Counting Steps Really Work?

Related: BBG Review: Fuschia Fitness Fun

Although low-intensity exercise requires longer sessions, LISS is still easy to fit into your daily routine. You can even break it up in the a couple sessions throughout the day: Maybe a 20-minute bike ride in the morning followed combined with a 20-minute walk on your lunch break.

How to create a low intensity workout at home

Just like HIIT, you can easily incorporate low-intensity exercise at home. You can easily customize your HIIT workouts and turn them into LIIT versions by modifying the moves, reducing the reps, and increasing the rest time in between circuits.

You can even use the same Trello workout builder I made for creating HIIT workouts, and tweak the reps and exercises as needed to create the perfect LIIT workout for you!

For LISS cardio, it’s a little harder to do at home without gym equipment but can still be done! If you have limited space, try a vinyasa yoga video.

Vinyasa yoga puts a focus on moving with the breath, which means you’ll be flowing through poses steadily enough to get your heart rate up.

 Personally, my favorite site for yoga is YogaDownload

If you’re new to yoga, stick to beginner videos so that you can focus on form more.

Even just cycling through sun salutations for fifteen minutes is enough to reach your target LISS heart rate!

Related: The Ultimate List of Home Fitness Gear

Low-intensity workouts can help make exercise more fun

If exercise has stopped being fun for you (or maybe has never been fun to begin with), then a few low-intensity workouts could be just what you need to help you shift your mindset towards fitness. 

A good LI workout will make you feel energized and give you a feeling of accomplishment without risking injury. 

Since there is a larger commitment of time involved, you may need to get more creative about working in the time. I find getting it done first thing in the morning works best!

You can also turn low-intensity workouts into your social life. (It’s probably much easier to get your friends to join you for a walk than for them a bootcamp-style workout!)

What are your thoughts on low-intensity workouts? Which type is your favorite or which one do you want to try? 

Is low intensity exercise really effective for weight loss? Here's what you need to know about low-impact full body workouts and low intensity interval training (or LIIT) before you give them a try! What is LIIT and how can it improve your health? Learn out how LIIT can be done at home or in the gym to help you lose weight and get fit!

Corrie Alexander is a former ISSA-certified personal trainer, home fitness advocate, and founder of The Fit Careerist. A proponent of personal growth and a self-proclaimed fitness app-junkie, Corrie shares tips and product reviews with the goal of helping others on their own fitness journey.

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