Exercising unbeknownst to ourselves: Ignorance is LISS!

If you’ve any interest in fitness, chances are you’ve happened upon the rather daunting concept of HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training), but have you heard about its less attention-seeking siblings LISS (Low Intensity Steady State) and LIIT (Low Intensity Interval Training)?
As someone who loves to potter around on foot, I’m convinced LISS and LITT are litch the reasons I don’t feel completely unfit during periods where I undertake no ‘scheduled’ exercise. Fellow marchers, we’re not as unfit as we’ve been lead to believe! Sure I’m always running (well walking) late, so I naturally incorporate several ‘more intense’ walking intervals throughout the day of #WerkWerkWerk.
LISS is low-intensity cardio that requires 30 to 60 minutes of working out at the sweet spot of 60% of the heart’s max effort, give or take. Subtract your age from 220 and work out at 60-70% of this figure.
Dr. Jean-Philippe Walhin conducted a study at the University of Bath which found that both halves of the study group lost the same amount of weight, despite half of the subjects partaking in intense exercise regimes, while the other half partook in exercise of moderate intensity.
Ozzie fitness goddess Kayla Itsines has extolled its benefits for several years and incorporates LISS sessions into her programmes: the #LISScardio social media trend has been ascribed to her good self.
LISS offers many advantages. The extended period of exercise leads to weight loss (by delving into alternative energy stores) and, intuitively enough, leads to far fewer injuries, as significantly less strain is placed on the joints: #Winning! It’s easy peasy to start a LISS regime. It offers innumerable adaptations: walking, jogging, swimming, cycling. You can do it anywhere and everywhere. The recovery is far faster, since your muscles aren’t as tender and chock-full of lactic acid from your previous LISS session. The only snag is it usurps more of your day than a HIIT sesh…
But you have to balance that small snag with the evidence suggesting you’re more likely to stick with LISS:
The Journal of Sports Science and Medicine published a study in 2015 reporting its subjects simply preferred LISS and found HIIT “less enjoyable than steady state or mild interval training”.
The Journal Nutrition, Metabolism and Cardiovascular Diseases published a study in 2013 whose conclusion rowed in with this, finding that “prescribing a higher-intensity exercise decreases adherence and results in the completion of less exercise”. Softly, softly, catchee monkey!
A huge bonus for me is that LISS offers more potential for exercising in a social way. Because you can hold a conversation during the 30-60 minutes, you could go for a hike with a few friends rather than pounding the treadmill on your toblerone.
And as for LIIT, I delighted in the conclusion of studies of walking at varying paces recently: exercise regimes involving less intense intervals confer similar benefits to their back-breaking counterparts. Hallelujah!
I’ve posted on HIIT before if you’re in the mood to trek back to February of this year on the blog (‘Go HIIT or Go Home’ on skipthescript.com). If you’re not, the gist is as follows: you exert yourself until you reach close to your peak heart rate for a purgatorial interval of anything from a few seconds to several minutes and then cool down with an interval of less intense training. You then repeat the cycle a number of times.
With LIIT, you exercise (usually walk) at a ‘normal’ pace, i.e. a pace at which you could continue (in theory) indefinitely. You then up the ante with a more intense interval, but one which is a helluva lot less intense than what you’d face during a HIIT session. You could probably still hold down a basic conversation… And you wouldn’t morph into a puce-faced sweaty Betty… #RightUpMyAlley!
“Most of the existing literature has been on constant-speed walking”, reported Manoj Srinivasan, a co-author of a study published in the Journal Biology Letters in September 2015, despite the fact that “people don’t live their lives on treadmills”. Well I definitely don’t! This study was undertaken by engineering researchers at The Ohio State University and demonstrated that walking at alternating speeds burns up to 20% more calories than maintaining a steady speed. “When you’re changing the speed, you’re pressing the gas pedal, so to speak… that process certainly burns more energy”, deduced mechanical engineer and first author Nidhi Seethapathi. In addition, this study highlighted a vital point: they allowed their subjects to vary the pace by speeding up towards the front of the treadmill and slowing down towards the back of the treadmill, thus more accurately mimicking how we walk #IRL. Previous experiments involved directly changing the pace on the treadmill, which had been translating into less work, i.e. energy expenditure, for the study participant.
#FascinatingFact: up to 8% of the energy used in your daily trotting is due to the exertion required to stop and start. My renowned distractability while I’m out and about might be serving some purpose after all!
Interestingly, the above study also established that people walk at a significantly more leisurely pace when covering a shorter distance and up their speed as the distance ahead expands… #MakesSense!
Want a quick tip to boost your calorie expenditure? The Movement lab at Ohio State University recommends you go the cray-cray way: “Just do weird things. Walk with a backpack, walk with weights on your legs, walk for a while, then stop and repeat that. Walk in a curve as opposed to a straight line”. The latter #CurveBall is my fav!

Looking for an easy way to incorporate LIIT into your regime stat? Try the following…
1. Walk at your usual speed for 5 minutes. This is your ‘recovery pace’.
2. Gradually increase your speed over 30 seconds and maintain this level of exertion for 90 seconds. This is your ‘chase pace’. You should not be out of breath.
3. Revert to your recovery pace for 5 minutes.
4. Add your ‘faster’ interval (chase pace) again for 90 seconds.
5. Continue on your merry way until you’ve clocked up half an hour on the exercise clock. Et voilà… Job done!

As always, queries welcome and if you’d like to read more, please visit skipthescript.com!

P.S. Still an issue with posting images on the blog… Bear with me!


My name is Michelle and I’m a Dublin-based GP (family doctor). Life is short: take the minimalist approach to maximise your health!

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