Is Low-Intensity Interval Training the Future of Fitness?

Written by
Sara @ 8fit
Blonde woman doing plank, mom
Written by
Sara @ 8fit
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Keeping up with the different trends happening in fitness can feel exhausting. Should we focus on cardio or strength? Lots of reps or low reps with heavier weights? Intervals or distance? There’s so much confusion, but the good news is that there isn’t just one path to getting fitter—there are many!

You’ve probably heard of high-intensity interval training (HIIT), but what about low-intensity interval training (LIIT)? An acronym for low-intensity interval training, LIIT is a new fitness trend that’s starting to take the fitness world by storm, at least in big cities like New York City and LA.

The idea of low-intensity interval training seems to go against everything we know about fitness. After all, we’re regularly sold the idea that harder and faster should always equal better when it comes to training—but we know that’s not the case. What if low to moderately difficult workouts could work just as well?

What is low-intensity interval training?

With the recent explosion of HIIT, it was only a matter of time until a radically different style of training would appear. Popping up in trendy gyms and luxury fitness studios across the United States and Europe, LIIT classes appeal to busy professionals, students, parents, or pretty much anyone who needs to slow down, unwind, and treat their sore muscles.

Although LIIT and HIIT are only one letter off from each other, the two forms of exercise are at the opposite end of the intensity spectrum. The only uniting factor between the two is that they are based on interval training, which includes periods of short bursts interchanged with slower periods of rest.

Unlike HIIT, which includes interval bursts that require nearly all of your energy (it’s called “intense” for a reason!), LIIT includes intervals of low-intensity exercises together with slightly higher intensity exercises (but never high-intensity like HIIT). LIIT is much slower-paced, so if you want to burn the same amount of calories as you would with a HIIT workout, you’d need to work out for around double the amount of time.

HIIT it off! If high-intensity training appeals to you like it does to us, check out our 10-minute HIIT cardio routine here.

Man with weight, dumbbell, Antonio

LIIT Benefits

One of the most significant benefits of doing a HIIT workout—like the ones you find in the 8fit app—is that it’s a massive time-saver, torching calories in just 30 minutes or less. A LIIT workout, on the other hand, requires more time (between 45 minutes to an hour) to burn the same amount, but that doesn’t mean it’s less effective. And, because it’s excellent for any fitness level, LIIT could be the perfect gateway to exercise for folks who have little fitness experience or for those recovering from injuries.

And let’s face it: there are some days where you may struggle to get out of bed just to take a shower. We’ve all been there. On those days, you might not be able to convince yourself to bust out a HIIT workout, and that’s ok. A LIIT exercise could be the perfect middle-ground for times when you want to enjoy some of the endorphins you get from working out, without necessarily pushing your heart rate to its limits.

Like with so many other types of exercise, LIIT offers numerous benefits, including:

  • Building strength

  • Increased mobility

  • Balance and coordination support

  • Stress relief

  • Reduced blood pressure

The exercises included in a low-intensity interval training session are typically lower impact, meaning that they’re easier on the joints. Since you perform the exercises at a slower pace, you can pay more attention to your form and ensure that you avoid injuries. Both of these points make LIIT an excellent choice for aging folks or those with joint problems.

If you’re looking for something to supplement your 8fit HIIT workouts, LIIT could be a good option for in-between. In fact, LIIT’s calming effects can even make recovery easier and offer a balancing mix of effects that help you feel relaxed while challenging you at the same time. If weight loss is what you’re after, adding in low-intensity workouts a few times a week could help you along.

Prefer a calming workout? Check out our at-home 20-minute beginners yoga routine and get your zen on.

The science of LIIT

One of the terms that get thrown around often in the LIIT scene is LISS, which stands for low-intensity steady-state, or the optimal heart rate level you want to aim for when performing LIIT exercises. Your LISS should be around 60 to 80 percent of your maximum heart rate, unlike HIIT, which would be much higher, about 80 to 85 percent.

A recent study published by researchers at the University of Bath found that exercises performed at a lower to moderate intensity level for extended periods were just as effective as higher-intensity sessions done for a shorter amount of time. This is seriously good news for folks who, because of physical limitations or other issues, can’t manage high-intensity exercise.

A short excerpt of a LIIT workout might look like the following:

  • 1 minute squats

  • 30 seconds rest

  • 1 minute plank

  • 30 seconds rest

...and so on.

By interchanging longer active periods consisting of low-impact moves with longer rest periods, you can create a workout that’s effective and suitable for varying fitness labels. You can also switch between strength training and cardio.

Whether or not LIIT will one day become as big as HIIT is uncertain, but no matter the outcome, we’re happy as long as people find the sort of exercise that works for them. Whether your fitness journey includes yoga, pilates, or good ol’ HIIT, you can forge a path that’s right for you.

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