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HIIT or LISS? What cardio is best for weight loss?

hitt or liss for weight loss
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Cardio.  I’m sure you’ve used the term before when it comes to your weekly run or post-gym stepper sessions!  

Even if you haven’t used the term for your exercise regime, I can tell you now that you have engaged in some form of cardiovascular exercise this week.  

How do I know this?

Well. All we need to do is look at the definition of what cardio is.


What is cardio?

Cardiovascular exercise is anything that raises your heart rate for a period of time.  That’s right, anything! This can be the stairs you climb to get to the office.  Any gardening or heavy lifting you do in the home.  The sex you have, and of course, the more traditionally known forms of cardio. 

I get asked about cardio regularly.  

‘What are the benefits?’

‘What type of cardio is best for me?’

‘How long should I do it for?’

I’m sure many of you can relate to one or all of those questions.  So, I thought I would write an article to answer these questions for you.  


What are the benefits of cardio?

Let’s start with the benefits.


Increased calorie use 

If you are looking to lose a little weight, undertaking some form of cardiovascular exercise will help you achieve a calorie deficit. If you have read any of my previous blogs around the subject of weight loss.  You will know how essential creating a calorie deficit is for dropping any unwanted body fat.  Engaging in regular cardio of any form (walking, running, cycling or otherwise) will give you that extra cumulative calorie burn to help drop a few pounds*

*providing your food intake is appropriate.


Want to boost your mood, cardio will do it! 

Have you heard of a runners’ high?  Well, believe it or not, it’s an actual thing.  You see, exercise stimulates the release of hormones that, well, give you a heightened sense of wellbeing.  Essentially, it puts you in a better mood.  When you undertake your chosen form of cardio, the brain releases dopamine, serotonin and norepinephrine.  These hormones are directly responsible for the ‘high’ you feel when you get your heart rate up! 


Strengthen your heart, muscles and joints 

To get stronger at anything, you must train it.  Repetitive efforts allow you to become more efficient at a task, thus reaping more and more rewards as you go.  Cardio is no different.  By undertaking regular cardio, you will strengthen your heart, the muscles you use during exercise, and your major joints that rely on impact and movement for strength. 


Increased ability to stick to a healthy routine 

Consistency is the key to successful weight loss.  Not just for one or two weeks, but for months at a time.  The goal for all should be to undertake a long-term healthy routine. Cardio is part of that for most.  Just take point one into account.  You want to feel good while losing weight, right? Well, by taking advantage of regular dopamine hits from your run, cycle, swim, the good feeling will more than help you keep up the routine.  Ever heard of someone say that running is addictive?  Can you guess why?!


What type of cardio is best for me?

Generally, cardiovascular exercise (in the traditional understanding) falls into two categories.  HIIT (high-intensity interval training) and LISS (low-intensity steady-state).

HIIT consists of short bouts of maximum effort sprinting broken up with periods of low-intensity recovery.  A basic example of a HIIT session could be a 15-second bike sprint followed by a 45-second recovery, repeated eight times.   The benefits of HIIT training include.

  • Time-efficient.  If you are busy, HIIT training will give you a great workout in less time.
  • No equipment is necessary.  With any form of exercise, you can get outside and enjoy what nature provides us! Get some hill sprints in!
  • It’s hard work.  Yes, that’s a benefit.  To adapt and make progress, you must work up to and beyond your perceived physical limits.

LISS is like its name suggests, is cardio at a low to medium intensity.  Essentially, the equivalent of a fast walk or slow jog.  The benefits of LISS include.

  • Improved recovery while burning calories.
  • Increased calorie burn.
  • Improved circulation.
  • Improves overall endurance ability.


So, should I do HIIT or LISS cardio?

For me, a healthy combination of both HIIT and LISS is perfect for your weight loss efforts. Of course, preference should always be an essential consideration when structuring your cardio plan.  And it should still fit around and not disturb your daily routine.  If this means you do more HIIT than LISS, great.  If it means more longer-form cardio, no problem. 

One thing to consider when structuring your cardio schedule is your daily step count.  If you are moving upwards and over 10,000 steps per day, you may want to look at integrating more sprint work in the form of HIIT as your calorie expenditure is higher through the week. 

If you have a lower step count, look to integrate more longer-form cardio to expend the adequate amount of calories to elicit fat loss. 


How your weekly cardio could look.

I have built a weekly example of how your cardio could be structured.



Steps (at least 10,000) + HIIT (15 sec sprints, 45 sec rest x 8)



Steps (at least 10,000)



Steps (at least 10,000) + LISS (30 minutes)



Steps (at least 10,000)



Steps (at least 10,000) + HIIT (15 sec sprints, 45 sec rest x 8)



Steps (at least 10,000) + LISS (60 minutes)



Steps (at least 10,000)


How long should I do it for?

For me, this is almost entirely dictated by two things—your enjoyment of cardio and your available time.

If time is a consideration, you may want to look at including shorter, more intense bouts of HIIT based cardio. Are you not strapped for time? LISS could be the cardio for you.


Wrapping it up

There is no perfect prescription for cardio.  It relies on a combination of factors that all need to be taken into consideration.  

Are you a beginner to cardio?  If so, ease into your sessions (especially HIIT) and build from there. 

Do you have a busy work schedule? Again, HIIT may be for you. For those of you, that may need some time out and want to expend some more calories, including some longer form cardio (LISS) will give you the high and the motivation you need to continue your weight loss journey. 

Good luck.

Matt Warner

by Matt Warner

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