Different Styles of Cardio and When to Use Them

Low Intensity Steady State

LISS cardio is done at a very low intensity, or slow pace, usually for an extended period of time. This is usually a long walk and is done for recovery or just extra movement. If you are an experienced swimmer or cyclist and can settle into an easy pace, you can do LISS with those methods too. If you are physically exhausted from an accumulation of hard training, this is a good option. 


Moderate Intensity Exercise

Moderate intensity exercise is a step above LISS in intensity, but is very do-able for a period of time. Examples include brisk walking, walking on a treadmill at an incline, jogging, cycling, rowing or swimming. Moderate intensity exercise can be done multiple times a week.


High Intensity Exercise

High intensity exercise is vigorous in nature and feels more exertional. High intensity exercise sessions will usually be harder and quicker than moderate or low intensity. Examples include running, hard cycling, swimming and jump roping.


High Intensity Interval Training

High intensity interval training (HIIT) is characterized by bouts of high intensity alternating with low intensity or rest intervals. The high intensity intervals are typically done at an exertion level near impossible to maintain, thus necessitating the rest periods. Examples include sprints, hill sprints, stair climbing, kettle bell swinging, and jump roping. You might do HIIT only a couple times a week since it is quite demanding.

American Heart Association Guidelines

For reference, the American Heart Association recommends, in addition to 2 days a week of moderate to high intensity muscle building activity, either:

  • at least 30 minutes of moderate intensity aerobic activity at least 5 days a week for a total of 150 minutes. These can be broken into 10 minutes chunks. OR
  • at least 25 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity 3 days per week for a total of 75 minutes

Remember that exercise accumulates! No movement is wasted! Find something fun and try a new cardio method today!