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Training Tips

Why you should choose LIIT over HIIT if you're new to exercise


If all the talk of HIIT is leaving you feeling out of breath, then slow it down. LIIT (low-intensity interval training) and LISS (low-impact steady state cardio) are gaining popularity. It means doing a long steady workout, such as a slow jog or a swim. It’s especially good for older adults: a recent study by the University of Bath found that participants with an average age of 52 lost as much weight doing LISS as higher intensity fitness.

Personally, LIIT helped me to recover from a toe injury caused by pushing my body too hard when training for a marathon. After a long period of rest to allow it to heal, when I resumed running I started out doing LIIT, mixing running with walking breaks to ensure I didn’t do too much, too soon and get injured again.

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Since then, it has helped me stay injury-free, maintained my weight and made running five to six times a week always a pleasure and never a chore. While I will still do HIIT occasionally – for instance, if I’m following a six-to-eight week training plan to reach a certain race goal – LIIT allows me to keep running all year round to the benefit of my overall health and fitness.

Training at this kind of effort – between 60-80 per cent of your maximum heart rate, rather than to the max like you would in HIIT – doesn’t just apply to running. Brisk walking, swimming, cycling, Pilates and numerous exercise classes can all be done in a state of LISS.

While it takes longer to burn the same calories than in a HIIT class (a LIIT session should be 30-60 minutes in comparison with a HIIT class that could be done and dusted in 10-20 minutes), the benefits are numerous. A recent US study found that it’s a more sustainable form of exercise as people enjoy LIIT much more than “no pain, no gain” HIIT. As a result, they’re more motivated to do this workout regularly, reaping all the physical and mental health benefits of exercise in the process.

rmr coverOpting for LIIT workouts can help a New Year’s resolution to keep fit last beyond January because it places less strain on the body, so you’re less likely to burn out or pull a muscle in a matter of weeks. You’ll also recover faster from each session so can exercise more frequently, instead of having to rest for days due to aching limbs from HIIT. LIIT is also a more accessible form of exercise if you’re elderly, overweight or currently feel like you’re the unfittest person on the planet. Start off easy, take regular breaks and just like the tortoise versus the hare, you’ll soon find that you’re winning the race to long-term health.

The Couch to 5k plan is a great example of LIIT and has helped many people take up running by encouraging them to interperse jogging with walking breaks. The plan can be downloaded as an app, or you will find it in the recently published Run Mummy Run book! The book also has tips from woman who have followed the plan and not looked back!

This article first appeared in the Telegraph as part of their 2018 biggest fitness trends feature, read the piece in full here.