By now you might be well-aware of the benefits of high-intensity interval training (HIIT), but you’re still confused as to whether you should fit low-impact steady state (LISS) into your workout routine as well.
In this article, I’m going to explore some of the pros and cons of HIIT and LISS. And at the end of the article, I will even give you a list of personal recommendations for VR games that embody both types of exercise.
But first, you should be aware that the best routine is the one that fits your lifestyle and health. By no means are you required to push yourself to your maximum heart rate if it causes issues, and alternatively you may choose to ignore my LISS recommendations if you’re a hardened athlete. That’s OK. Let’s get started.
HIIT Pros and Cons
HIIT Pro #1: Crazy Calorie Burn
HIIT is, by definition, a high-intensity workout. It pushes your heart to the maximum BPM it can go- a number which you can approximate by following this guide from Lifehacker. Even though the intervals are shorter, HIIT expects you to be working your body at 100% throughout.
This means that you’re burning the calories necessary to push your body to its limits. You are forging beyond what your body was capable of doing before, which actuates a change in how your body functions. This is why soldiers, firefighters, and police officers tend to choose this mode of training.
HIIT Pro #2: EPOC
It’s well-documented that HIIT causes something called excess post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC), where your heart will continue to burn calories until it restores itself all the way to its original state. This is why, if you wear a fitness tracker like an Apple Watch or a Fitbit, you may see your calorie burn continue to soar during the hours after you’ve finished your workout.
HIIT Pro #3: Time Efficiency
The beauty of HIIT is how much work is getting done in so little a time. When you’re doing HIIT, you’re going in and you’re performing at your peak, taking a short break, and then performing at your peak again- rinse and repeat until you’re finished.
Some sources claim that you’re only supposed to do HIIT for a maximum of 40-50 minutes, and even 15 minutes of full-throttle HIIT will obliterate you if you’re a beginner. But that alone is a massive difference in efficiency between, say, a two-hour workout that’s much less intense. It means that you won’t need to prolong your session to reap the benefits of a ‘complete’ workout.
HIIT Pro #4: Muscle Gain
HIIT is both aerobic and anaerobic. Unlike sustained cardio, which is only aerobic. You push your muscles to their limits, resulting in an increase in muscle mass. While losing body fat comes with the concern of losing muscle mass, HIIT builds muscle while burning fat.
HIIT Con #1: Strain
HIIT pushes your body to its peak, which can be a problem if you don’t know your limits. If you get tired and push yourself to the point where keeping form becomes an issue, continuing is known to cause strain and even severe damage to your muscles and joints.
When you’re in the middle of a workout, it might be difficult to gauge when you’re causing strain for yourself the next day.
HIIT Con #2: High Recovery Time
HIIT isn’t something that’s easy to go back and do again the next day. Especially when strain is present, returning to your routine the next day- or even within the next several days- can cause injury and make it even more difficult to keep the routine going.
This is why you should buffer your HIIT routine with LISS workouts.
HIIT Con #3: It’s Difficult to Get Through
When your body isn’t prepared to operate at 80-100% of its peak performance for any sustained period of time, it’s easy for your workout to overwhelm you. Non-athletes will likely run into strain, injury, and fatigue while first trying to tackle HIIT.
HIIT Con #4: It’s Tough to Get Motivated About
It’s not hard to infer that HIIT takes discipline to come back to; day over day, week over week. Especially when you have other stressful things going on, it’s difficult to get yourself primed to give a sustained 100% effort for 20-40 minutes of your day.
LISS Pros and Cons
LISS Pro #1: Simpler Activities
LISS can be as simple as walking, jogging, dancing or anything else that keeps your heart rate around 50% of your maximum.
LISS Pro #2: Less Strain
Because you aren’t pushing your body to extremes, there is less opportunity for you to burn yourself during your LISS workout.
LISS Pro #3: It’s Associated With Fun
Imagine how much fun you’d be having right now if you were outside playing a game of tennis or frisbee-golf. You can almost feel the summer sun on your skin, right? That light physical activity is LISS, and it’s enough to release useful endorphins- chemicals that improve your mood. At the very least, most standing and room-scale VR games can be worked into a LISS routine.
LISS Pro #4: You’re More Likely to Stay Consistent
When you’re enjoying yourself and you’re feeling good doing something, it’s easier for you to work it into your daily schedule. This means that you’re also less likely to stop exercising regularly on a LISS-based exercise plan. VR gaming is perfect for this.
LISS Con #1: Less Efficiency
To see any results with LISS, you need to sustain it for a long time. This can mean hours spent doing your preferred LISS activity, instead of speeding your routine up with a HIIT activity.
LISS Con #2: Can Lead to Muscle Loss
With LISS, you’ll be losing body fat. You won’t be doing anything anaerobic, so you won’t be building any muscle. As a result, your muscle mass will decrease as you progress through your LISS routine.
LISS Con #3: No EPOC
Unlike with higher intensity training, your heart won’t have an intense workout to recover from after your LISS workout. Therefore, you won’t be residually burning nearly as many calories after your LISS workout is over.
LISS Con #4: Diminishing Returns
If you stay with one LISS routine for too long of a time (and don’t deviate at all), it starts feeling like a chore, causing you to avoid the activity altogether. And then you need to change your routine until you start seeing your fitness improve again. This isn’t so much a con in VR as you can usually just switch games or add more HIIT into your routine.
VR Workout Recommendations
If you want to get the results of a HIIT workout without as much hassle, you’re strongly recommended to do your workouts in VR! The three must-have VR games on your list are:
If you want to focus on LISS, you should instead play these games:
3. Racket: Nx
And if you want to hit 50-70% of your maximum heart rate for about an hour each day, I recommend:
You might be trying to figure out how to balance HIIT and LISS into your workout. If you want to see real results, you need to stick to HIIT. That said, you might want to consider a LISS routine if accessibility and maintaining regular play are a concern.
VR has games that provide both types of exercise, and there are also games that can function as either HIIT or LISS in different circumstances. There are no restrictions on your workout in VR, so you can ease into fitness at your own pace.
Have you used VR to achieve a high-intensity routine? Let us know in the comments.