HIIT or LISS: Which Is Best for Weight Loss?

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For starters, you may be wondering what even are these acronyms.

HIIT and LISS are the two most popular camps in the world of cardio workouts, but which is better for weight loss?

HIIT stands for high-intensity interval training. What this means is that you will be exercising at a high intensity for an interval of time. Take a Tabata, for example, which is a form of HIIT, you work out really hard for 20 seconds and then you rest for 10 seconds and repeat. HIIT workouts can be much longer than that, though. For instance, a common cross-country workout is interval training where you run at your fastest pace for a minute and then jog at a light pace for two minutes. Just remember that HIIT is working really hard for a short amount of time and then resting for a period of time.

LISS stands for long, steady-state cardio and is probably the most common route that people take when they are trying to lose weight initially. With LISS, you are getting up on that treadmill or bike and you are running or riding for a longer time with no rest periods at a slow, manageable pace. Many people opt for this form of cardio because 1. they probably hate cardio, to begin with, and the thought of really pushing it on a treadmill sounds horrible, and 2. they have been misled into thinking that that will cause them to lose weight.

So which is better?

And the Winner Is?

In my opinion, HIIT is definitely the way you want to go if fast weight loss is your goal. I will be transparent here, this is my opinion. I have done the research and across all research articles, HIIT and LISS produced comparable weight loss results at the end of 8-12 week training protocols.

However, before you throw the baby out with the bathwater, there is a fundamentally important distinction that needs to be made that was not really addressed in any of the research articles I looked at: time.

Time is our most precious asset and if you have kids or a busy job, you definitely know the struggle of finding enough time to even catch a breath, let alone workout!

If you are beginning to exercise, with weight loss being your goal, keep in mind that LISS requires a lot of time. Especially if you are riding a bike as that requires further distances to equate to the effects of running. LISS demands your time, you have to run the miles (with an “s”) and you have to increase them and run them faster. If time is something that you need, LISS is not going to be your best bet.

HIIT on the other hand does not need that much time (less than 30 minutes), and progressing HIIT exercises is as easy as picking up harder movements (ex. squat jumps instead of regular squats) instead of adding time. HIIT also has the benefit of being a 1-2 punch on your body, not only are you getting a cardio workout, but you are working out your whole body too. Unless you are swimming or rowing (which would be ideal if LISS is your preferred method), you are only working out your legs and you are not working them out in a wide range of movements. With HIIT, you have the ability to put your upper body into the mix with exercises like burpees, shoulder taps, monkey hops, push-ups, and planks which will help you have a well-rounded body.

Final Thoughts

At the end of the day, if you are working out, give yourself a pat on the shoulder! This article was not meant to tear down one exercise over the other, it was simply meant to help out those who wish to optimize and to educate you on what I think the best form of exercise for weight loss is.

Like I said earlier, the research has shown that both methods will help you lose weight. The main factor that I would consider and do consider for all of my clients is time. If you want to get a workout in that will help you lose weight and does not take a long time, you want to go with HIIT. I didn’t mention this above, but HIIT is also a little more convenient as you can do any HIIT workout in the comfort of your home. To do that with LISS, you need a cardio machine in your house. If time is not really a concern for you and you like putting down the miles on a run or ride, then by all means keep doing it! Working out is good for you no matter the form and if LISS is what you really love to do, then do not stop! You will get to where you want to be, it just takes time!

Jordan Tank, Personal Trainer, Columbus, Ohio

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