Woman runs outside, LIIT

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Why Low-Intensity Interval Training May Just Be Your New Favorite Workout Style

Because you don't need to go "all out" in every workout.

By Kells McPhillipsFebruary 1, 2024


Some fitness enthusiasts subscribe to the idea that if a workout isn’t high intensity, it doesn’t “count” as a workout. You may even be one of them. However, that isn’t necessarily the case. Exercise serves many purposes—beyond just pushing you through a grueling movement or breaking a sweat. And when it comes to workouts that boost your fitness foundation, you can’t do much better than low-intensity interval training, more commonly referred to as LIIT. 

High-intensity interval training’s low-key cousin has a lot to offer in the way of approachability, injury prevention, and endurance training. Here, Peloton instructor Jess King breaks down all the details of this sweat style. 

What Is Low-Intensity Interval Training (LIIT)?

“Low-intensity interval training is essentially steady-state endurance training,” Jess says. “In LIIT, intervals are low in intensity. Meaning, they are done for a longer period of time with less weight, less resistance, or less intensity.” For example, if you hop on your Peloton Bike for some long, slow intervals at a conversational pace (i.e. 10-minute intervals at 60 to 70 percent effort), you’re doing a LIIT workout. 

In LIIT workouts, your heart rate should remain relatively low compared to a more rigorous cardio workout. In general, your heart rate will hover in zone 2 (60 to 70 percent of your maximum heart rate) or zone 3 (70 to 80 percent of your maximum heart rate). Comparatively, during a high-intensity interval training (HIIT) workout, it may spike into zones 4 or 5, inching closer to your maximum heart rate.

However, just because your heart rate remains lower during LIIT, that doesn’t mean this workout style is “easier.” Maintaining a moderate effort for long intervals will challenge your mental and physical strength, as well as elevate your overall fitness. 

Beyond cycling, here are a few other types of workouts that can be done LIIT-style:

  • Strength training

  • Running

  • Walking 

  • Swimming 

  • Rowing

The Benefits of LIIT

High-intensity workouts get all the hype, but LIIT workouts have their own fair share of benefits. Below, Jess breaks down all the reasons to add LIIT to your routine. 

LIIT May Be Easier on Your Joints 

Low-intensity workouts may be easier on your joints, decreasing the number of opportunities you have to injure yourself. While you may accidentally twist your ankle in a jump squat or tweak your knee with poor running form during high-intensity exercise, the slower pace of LIIT will help you stay in control and be less susceptible to injuries.

LIIT may also improve your mobility. Because your movements are precise and exact, you may find that you start to feel more free and in control as you swim, bike, row, or walk. 

LIIT Requires Less Recovery Time

LIIT places less strain on your body—meaning you can spend more time moving and less time recovering. “[LIIT] will help you work out some of the lactic acid in your muscles if, let’s say, you did a higher intensity workout the day before,” Jess says. Balancing out your HIIT workouts with LIIT workouts will help you maintain consistency in your exercise routine.

LIIT is More Beginner-Friendly

If you’re just dipping your toes into fitness for the first time, high-intensity workouts may seem a bit daunting. The cues are quick, and you may need more cardiovascular fitness to keep up with the pace of the workout. However, LIIT gives you a chance to learn and practice the moves. 

For example, if you start your exercise journey with LIIT bodyweight training, you may slowly work through intervals of squats, deadlifts, and bicep curls, taking the time to do each of these movements with proper form. And eventually, you’ll build confidence not only in your LIIT workouts but in any high-intensity exercise you add to your training program.

LIIT May Improve Your Mood

As with all varieties of physical activity, LIIT can give you a boost of serotonin. Research shows that regular exercise may reduce the emotional effects of stress, increase your self-esteem, and improve your cognitive functioning

LIIT vs. HIIT: What’s the Difference?

LIIT is (almost) the polar opposite of HIIT, which consists of short intervals performed at a high intensity. 

Almost all types of exercise can be transformed into LIIT- or HIIT-style workouts. For example, in running, a HIIT workout may consist of 30-second sprints on the Peloton Tread. Meanwhile, a LIIT workout would contain longer intervals (maybe five to 10 minutes) at a sustainable pace that challenges your endurance. “[LIIT workouts] are still going to be hard and may be challenging,” Jess says. “You're going to sweat a lot, but you're not going to be impacting your joints in a holistic manner. You're never going to be getting breathless.” 

Adding both LIIT and HIIT workouts into your training routine may make you a more well-rounded athlete. “Personally, most of my workouts are low-intensity interval training, and then I'll take it high intensity two to three times a week,” she says.

LIIT Exercises

Ready to experiment with LIIT? Below, we break down five workouts to get you started. And don’t forget: The Peloton App is home to plenty of LIIT-style workouts if you need a little guidance. “Some examples that we have on our platform are endurance runs on the Tread, walk and walk + run classes, or even interval runs (as long as you’re never hitting your max sprint),” Jess says. 

Every workout should begin with a warm-up and end with a cooldown, so plan your time accordingly.

Example 1: LIIT Bike Intervals

Pedal at a medium resistance for about five minutes. Take a two-minute rest at a low resistance. Repeat three to five times, making sure that the effort feels doable yet challenging (you know, LIITish). Cool down for 10 minutes and stretch

Example 2: LIIT Bodyweight Intervals

Try this circuit one to five times, depending on your fitness level.

  • 10 good mornings 

  • 10 pull-ups

  • Two full minutes of rest 

Prioritize good form and move slowly—especially if you’re just getting acquainted with any of these exercises. 

Example 3: LIIT Walking

After a few active stretches, begin your walk. For this workout, you’ll alternate between an easy and a moderate pace. Try five minutes of power walking. It should feel like a six or seven out of 10, with 10 being maximal effort. After completing your interval, walk at a slower pace for a couple of minutes. Repeat this circuit three to five times, depending on how much time you have. 

Example 4: LIIT Running

Speed up to a pace that feels challenging but sustainable for five minutes. Slow down into a jog or walk for a couple of minutes before easing into your next interval. Repeat three to five times before cooling down and stretching

Example 5: LIIT Rowing 

Complete three minutes at a comfortable but challenging stroke rate, around 24 to 30 SPM. Rest for two minutes at a much lower effort. Repeat five times.

The Bottom Line on LIIT

Long story short: LIIT workouts consist of longer intervals at moderate efforts (in zone 2 or zone 3). It's a flexible exercise style that can be applied to various activities such as running, rowing, biking, and weight training. Like HIIT, LIIT comes with its own laundry list of benefits. If you opt to incorporate LIIT into your weekly schedule, you may notice that you recover quicker, think more clearly, and even feel freer in your movement.

“Low-intensity interval training is where you want to get the benefits of fitness and movement in your life," Jess says. "You don't run the risk of getting injured and you reap the benefits in a massive, massive way."

This content is for informational and educational purposes only and does not constitute individualized advice. It is not intended to replace professional medical evaluation, diagnosis, or treatment. Seek the advice of your physician for questions you may have regarding your health or a medical condition. If you are having a medical emergency, call your physician or 911 immediately.


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