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HIIT Workouts Not for You? It’s Time to Get LIIT

Get all the benefits of intervals at a calmer pace.

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You’ve heard of the benefits of high-intensity interval training (HIIT) workouts. They torch calories, improve your fitness, and boost your heart health. But these often-grueling routines are not for everyone. The solution? Meet their easier, calmer cousin: low-intensity interval training (LIIT).

Like HIIT routines, LIIT workouts switch between higher-intensity spurts and slower-paced recovery periods. The difference is LIIT workouts aren’t as tough, says Amanda Thebe, a Houston-based personal trainer, fitness and health coach, and founder of FitNChips.com. While HIIT intervals demand that you sprint at nearly an all-out effort (think: completely out of breath), LIIT takes it at an easier pace (think: breathing a little harder than usual). “These workouts take longer,” Thebe says, “but they can provide the same benefits.” 

The Perks of Getting LIIT 

Because LIIT workouts aren’t as demanding on the body, Thebe explains, they may reduce your risk of getting hurt. “Anyone can do them, including people who are new to exercise,” she says. Lower-intensity exercise can also be easier for many people to stick with over the long run.

And LIIT routines may be just as effective for dropping pounds as their tougher counterparts. In one study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, obese adults who did low-intensity workouts lost about the same amount of weight as those who pushed themselves harder. That may be because intervals, no matter the pace, can rev up the burn. Case in point: Researchers from Ohio State University found that switching up your speed while walking burns up to 20 percent more calories than strolling at a steady pace.

The drawback is that you’ll need to carve out more time for your workout than if you did HIIT. To get the same results as a 30-minute HIIT workout, you may need to do an hour or more of LIIT, Thebe says.

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Getting Started

Want to give LIIT a go? You can add low-intensity intervals to many of your usual workouts, Thebe says. Here’s how:

Cardio: Walking, jogging, cycling, and rowing are all good LIIT options. Go a faster pace than usual for two minutes. Your heart should be pumping, and your breathing heavier. But you should be able to hold a conversation. (On a scale of 1 to 10, you should be around 5 to 7.) Recover at a leisurely pace for four minutes. (This will be around a level of 4 or 5.) Repeat at least 10 times for an hour-long workout. 

Strength training: Turn your regular lifting session into LIIT by doubling the number of reps you do and using 50 to 70 percent of your normal weight. (Typically lift 10 pounds for 10 reps? Scale back to the 5-pound dumbbells and do 20 reps. If you normally use light weights like 2-pound dumbbells, double your reps and just use your body weight.) Rest a few minutes between sets.

Get more great health and wellness stories at Shape.com/Strive.