When it comes to fitness, most of us have been conditioned to believe workouts need to be tough, fast and grueling to be effective.
From F45 circuit sessions to spin classes, HIIT (high-intensity interval training) has become the gold standard of sweat sessions – offered everywhere from gyms to boutique studios to over-priced Instagram eBooks. And for good reason, too: It delivers results in a short amount of time and doesn’t require any real equipment to get started, making it perfect for the time-poor amongst us.
But pushing yourself to do as much cardio and as many exercises as you can in a limited amount of time isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Not only can it increase your risk of injury (think: stress fractures, muscle strains, inflamed tendons) but it can wreak havoc on your stress hormones, which is why health and fitness experts are predicting the rise of a slow exercise movement.
The movement has been dubbed LISS (low-intensity steady state) and focuses on maintaining the same pace for a set period of time, usually 30 to 60 minutes. Instead of rushing to get the heart rate up, these exercises try to keep the heart rate between 60 and 80 percent, which is the optimal fat-burning zone.
Low exercise doesn’t just mean trading your gym session for a walk. In fact, slow exercise can actually be harder than high-intensity workouts. Without momentum pushing you along, you have to do things properly, instead of just throwing yourself on the ground and calling it burpees.
While obvious examples include power walking, classes like hot yoga, reformer Pilates and Barre, which require you to hold certain movements to really feel the burn, fall into the slow exercise category while lengthening and toning. Even just slowing down weights-based moves you’re already doing counts.
And, yes, it is a complete myth that you need to run or get your heart rate ridiculously high to reap the benefits of exercise. According to a study in the Journal of Sports Science Medicine, moderate intensity steady state cardio, like brisk walking, provides the same heart health benefits as HIIT, but is much more enjoyable.
According to Pilates teacher and Barre Attack creator, Renee Scott, even if you don’t break out into a sweat right away, you will feel the burn – and you’ll get the results you want, as long as you commit and exercise regularly.
“All of the Barre exercises stretch and lengthen the body, increasing blood flow, mobility and improving overall digestion. The key chosen movement patterns of rotation, flexion and extension through the spine and torso, assist digestion by massaging the internal organs and intestines while detoxifying the liver and kidneys,” she explains.
What’s more, going slow means you focus more on muscle groups and spend more time holding certain poses, instead of trying to do as many reps as possible.
“By using your own body weight, resistance bands and balls for resistance, it’s not too taxing, rather it builds greater body awareness, retains core muscle structure, helps with posture and builds endurance physically and mentally.”
While LISS is kinder to your body long term, that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy HIIT training from time to time. Just be sure to listen to your body and switch to lower impact options if you start to feel exhausted instead of energised from your workout routine.