Low intensity steady state cardio has been a staple of good health and effective fat loss for years.
Since fitness advice became a thing, experts have recommended cardio for fat loss and good health. And for good reason, as cardio has many health benefits.
But, is cardio the best option? More specifically, does it deliver on the promises? And what are the benefits of low intensity steady state cardio, and is it right for me?
Today, we’ll go over those questions and more.
What Is Low Intensity Steady State Cardio?
As its name suggests, low intensity steady state cardio is aerobic exercise where you maintain a heart rate of around 50 to 70 percent of your maximum heart rate. This heart rate level, or heart rate training zone, is considered low intensity.
So some key characteristics of low intensity steady state cardio, also known more recently as LISS, are as follows:
- Low intensity in terms of the heart rate intensity, and generally in Zone 2 of the heart rate training zones. This is 60-70% of max heart rate.
- Steady state means that the exercise is at a steady, consistent rate for the duration, and the duration is usually for a longer period of time (30 minutes or longer).
- Zone 2 in heart rate training zones is an ideal zone for fat burning and weight loss.
- Low intensity workouts are ideal for beginners who are progressing in their fitness journey, and those recovering from injury.
Jogging is a great and familiar example of low intensity steady state cardio, where the goal is to maintain a low to moderate speed for an extended period. It puts you in a very comfortable fat burning mode.
According to fitness research, the best weight loss training zone is Zone 2, which is between 60 and 70 percent of your maximum heart rate. This is the sweet spot because it balances intensity and duration well, allows us to train for longer, and burns a lot of calories. (1)
|Zone||% of MHR||Workout Intensity||Description|
|Zone 5||90-100%||Maximum Intensity||Helps fit athletes increase speed; Very short durations|
|Zone 4||80-90%||Anaerobic||Increases Max Performance; Shorter durations|
|Zone 3||70-80%||Aerobic||Improves aerobic conditioning|
|Zone 2||60-70%||Weight Control||Improves endurance and fat burning; longer durations|
|Zone 1||50-60%||Warm-up||Improves overall health; ideal for warm-up and recovery|
What Benefits Does Low Intensity Steady State Cardio Offer?
One of the most prominent benefits of low intensity cardio is that it’s excellent for beginners. Thanks to its less dynamic nature and ease of learning proper technique, you can get started on your fitness journey with it.
If you are healing from an injury, low intensity cardio is a safe and practical option for you to stay healthy and active.
Low intensity cardio is also great for giving yourself a psychological break from all of the intense training. Pushing yourself to your limits all the time can become tiresome, and having some easier workouts is great for avoiding overwhelm. (2)
So low intensity adds a very nice variation to your workout regimen. It adds some change that will keep things fresh. It’s also a great option for those days when you’re not at your best, and we all have those days!
Aside from that, low intensity cardio burns many calories, which makes it a great option for people who want to lose fat. This can also help bring numerous health-related benefits.
And last but not least, because low intensity cardio is done for extended periods, you can also build up your endurance and work capacity. Both can be incredibly beneficial for your athletic performance and everyday life.
Different Types of Low Intensity Steady State Cardio
Low intensity cardio is truly amazing because we can do it in numerous ways. For example, jogging and riding a bike are two popular workout options.
But what if you don’t enjoy either of the two? Not a problem! Here are a number of low intensity steady state cardio options:
- Biking / Cycling
- Brisk Walk
- Jog – Walk (alternating)
- Elliptical machine
Each activity offers its unique benefits, and there is something for every taste.
Does The Heart Rate Training Zone Matter?
Contrary to what many people believe, your heart rate training zone matters because it directly influences your ability to keep training for an extended period. For example, if you want to train at 80 percent of your MHR, then your exercise duration will be quite short.
On the other hand, training at a low intensity will require a longer training session to achieve your training objectives. So LISS has many benefits, but to be effective it will take more time and consume more of your schedule. (3)
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- Marcin, A. (2019, March 8). Fat-burning heart rate: What is it, how to calculate, and chart by age. Healthline. https://www.healthline.com/health/fitness-exercise/fat-burning-heart-rate
- Exercise intensity. Exercise intensity – Better Health Channel. (n.d.).
Lindberg, S. (2019, October 3). Liss Cardio: Benefits vs. HIIT, heart rate, workout. Healthline.