low intensity workouts for bariatric patients
How Low Intensity Workouts Can Help You Burn Fat (and More)

You probably read this title and thought to yourself, “What the heck is LISS?”. LISS stands for low-intensity steady-state and is a form of cardio exercise in which you exert a steady amount of energy over a period of time. And as you may be able to guess, the movements are low intensity, meaning they reduce the impact on the joints.

It is easy to think that the only way you will lose fat in the gym is if you push yourself really hard, every day. However, contrary to common belief, intense workouts every day—especially with no rest—can lead to overexertion, fatigue, and injury. Now I am not saying to quit your intense workout sessions, because we all love—including myself—a great sweat sesh. Yet, incorporating LISS into your regular workout routine may help you take your endurance and your fitness to the next level.

heart rate zone training for weight loss patients

What Does LISS Involve?

LISS, as stated above, involves low-intensity movements at a steady pace over a given period of time. During LISS, you should keep your heart rate between 40-60% of your max heart rate.

Maximum Heart Rate = 220 – age

For the most effective results, I recommend performing 30 to 60 minutes of LISS several times a week, and even every day if you desire.

You will see the best results when it is combined with more intense cardio or weight training sessions. I recommend doing LISS after your more intense workouts as it is a great way to help your muscles recover and ultimately lose fat!

If you don’t have time to add on another 30 minutes of LISS after your workout, I would try to incorporate LISS into your weekly routine as an active recovery workout or if you are just getting started on your fitness journey.

Types of LISS Cardio:

  • Walking
  • Biking
  • Hiking
  • Swimming
  • Elliptical
  • Recreational activities that can be done at a steady-state

The Benefits of LISS

1. Burns fat

When you have an intense workout and you are functioning in the anaerobic (lack of oxygen) state, you are depriving your muscles and fat of oxygen. Fat needs oxygen to break down. With LISS, you are allowing your body to burn calories while still providing oxygen to the body and to the fat—aka fat burn!

If your goal is to build muscle, you must still incorporate strength training to ensure you don’t lose your muscle and strength.

2. Results with Less Effort

Thinking about doing an intense workout session can be exhausting, and I am talking about before you even make it to the gym—we have all experienced that mental fatigue. This can lead to you not even going to the gym for fear of “dying”. Think about walking for 45 minutes. That doesn’t seem too bad now, does it? So with way less effort, you can see similar results when it comes to weight loss.

3. Active recovery

As I stated above, LISS works best when combined with more intense workouts. Rest days are critical to your workout schedule because they allow your muscles to repair and recover—giving you more energy to give it your all during each workout session and decreasing the chance of injury.

But sometimes you may want to still work out on your rest days, especially if you are working towards a fitness or weight loss goal. Because LISS is steady and low intensity, it is a wonderful way to stay active, keep burning calories, and loosen up your stiff muscles.

4. Improves fitness levels

When looking to improve your endurance or simply get started with fitness, LISS is a great, non-intimidating way to do so. Because of the low-intensity nature of this cardio workout, LISS is light on the joints and the cardiovascular system. Allowing you to work your way up to a moderate to an intense state of working out.

5. You can do it anywhere!

Unlike weight training, you don’t need any equipment to do LISS. Although you can perform LISS on cardio equipment at the gym, such as the stationary bike, elliptical, stair master, and treadmill, you can just as easily perform LISS outside by walking, swimming, hiking, biking (if you have a bike), skateboarding, and more.

So, if you don’t already incorporate LISS into your weekly routine, I suggest you get to it! Start by walking for 30 minutes and gradually work your way up to longer sessions. Regardless of your fitness level, LISS is a great way to loosen your joints, increase your endurance, and burn fat!

Morgan Schaack, RD, LD
Morgan Schaack is a registered and licensed dietitian as well as a personal trainer. Morgan is particularly interested in bariatrics, medical weight loss, sports nutrition, ​and personal training. She is an active member of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics as well as a member of the Sports, Cardiovascular and Wellness Nutrition. Morgan is committed to helping patients achieve their weight loss goals through nutritionl and exercise counseling.
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