We’re all familiar with the benefits of high-intensity interval training and you probably are doing it yourself.
It’s an amazing way to get great results in a short amount of time, specifically to lower body fat, increase muscle and improve insulin resistance. But many are not familiar with low-intensity interval training.
It’s a way to get similar results as HIIT but like the name suggests it is at a lower intensity. So what’s the deal with LIIT, how do you do it and what does the research say? Well, those are all great questions and just like a warm down filled comforter, I’ve got ya covered baby. Listen up:
In This Episode On Low-Intensity Interval Training You Will Learn:
- Getting an understanding of high-intensity interval training to set the stage
- Why intervals works so well on the body
- Best exercises and ways to perform HIIT
- What low-intensity interval training is
- How LIIT differs from HIIT
- exercises that work best for low-intensity interval training
- Who low-intensity interval training might be best for
- The surprising results that come from this lower intensity
- What the studies say about LIIT
- How to put this all together
L.I.I.T (Low-Intensity Interval Training)
High-Intensity Interval Training is very well known and the benefits are recognized everywhere. And we’re going to talk about why high-intensity interval training is effective and beneficial.
But, low intensity interval training is something, not that it’s new, but it’s kind of on the fringe. People haven’t either heard of it or they don’t know how it works. It’s actually incredibly simple and might even provide some of the same benefits while not being as intense, as hard as the HIIT.
It’s something like I said, not that the concepts new, because people have been either doing it intentionally or unintentionally for a while, but getting more of a grasp on it might be something that’s relatively new for a lot of people.
So, we’ll try and break this all down and yeah, let’s get to it.
What is HIIT?
So I’ll cover that quickly here. If you’re in a gym or if you’ve been working out or doing any sort of, not advanced training, but a little more in depth or more intense, you’ve probably come across or even doing HIIT. And what that is, it’s beneficial for a few reasons.
First off, it doesn’t take as long as your normal gym time. It’s a shorter period workout, but its way more intense, but maybe going to get you some better results in the long run. So it’s kind of the ultimate fat burning muscle building type work out.
It’s basically performing a period of super intense exercise, followed by a less intense recovery period. And it’s this combination, the short burst activity followed by a slower recovery period that’s providing a lot of tremendous health benefits and body composition changes as far as more lean muscle and more body fat loss.
So, it’s that simple approach again, it’s just more accustomed to what our bodies are kind of built to do.
LIIT: What it is How is it Done?
So, that brings us to low intensity interval training, which now that you understand what high intensity interval training is, you can probably figure out what the low intensity looks like.
And it’s seeing as a promising alternative to someone who’s maybe wanting to do this sort of HIIT style training but they’re new to fitness, so they don’t want to go super intense right away, or maybe it is part of the older population or maybe you might be a little stiff and have those joint issues.
You can’t go as intense or you’re looking to lose some more body fat so the intensity level can’t be as high. That’s what this low intensity interval training is.
So how it works is the dynamic is the same as far as the way it’s segmented, where you have a more intense phase and then the recovery phase. But now we’re looking at the intensity phase not being as intense and the recovery phase being a lot longer.
So like I said, you break it down the same way if you were starting off. The perfect example for this is to do a walking running combination, but doesn’t even have to be the running per say, so if you’re out walking with someone, you would go along for around five to eight minutes and that’s going to start getting you warmed up.
When you’re ready, you’re going to gradually increase your speed until you reach the pace where you’d have to be running a little bit; this doesn’t have to be super-fast, but something where you’d still be able to do a light jog, something where you could still hold a conversation with someone.
If you’re gasping for breath, it’s going to be too intense in this LIIT training. So get to that pace and you’re going to do that for around 90 seconds. Like I said, it’s going to take you a little bit to find where that kind of sweet spot is for you.
So you’re going long for the 90 seconds. It’s going to feel tough, but not like a sprint. That’s the big difference. But basically, you shouldn’t have to stop and catch your breath.
So after that, you’re going to slow down and go back to that recovery pace, which is that slower walk.
It’s basically at a walking pace where you think you could walk all day long, nothing crazy hard, just a very slow grab, almost like a saunter where you can be shooting the breeze with someone walking along.
So you’ve done that 90 seconds. You’re going to go down to that slower walking phase and that’s going to be around three to five minutes. Again, depending on your fitness level, if you’re new to it, you’d want to go maybe four to five minutes.
If you’re a little more active already, you can do the three minutes and then just keep going at that pace. And then at that five minutes, you’re going to go again at that 90-second pace.
So at this point it might be…again, it’s hard, it’s subjective for everyone. It might be more of a way more brisk walk or a super light jog. Like I said, something where you definitely feel like you’re working.
It might be that slight burning because it’s a little more intense, but nothing that’s over the top, kind of excruciating full on sprint.
So you’ve done that 90 seconds again. Then you go back to that three to five minutes. The advantage here is that you have that longer recovery time. So ideally you’ll feel better as the recovery goes. So this whole thing is going to take around 30 minutes as you repeat that process between the 90 seconds on and that three to five minutes off.
And then when you finish that final last 90 seconds, some people call it as far as this LIIT training goes, some people called it a chase or like a boost pace; that’s the intensity part.
So whenever you finish this final burst or whatever, you’re going to spend eight to 10 minutes at that recovery. That’s slower walking pace and that’s going to serve as your cool down. And then you can do some lighter stretching and whatnot.
So for exercise choice, like I said, this walking, jogging, brisk walk combo is one of the best because it’s easy to monitor. It’s outside, it’s free, and it gets you fresh air, the whole deal.
Method of Exercise for LIIT
The exercise is going to be a little different than some of the high intensity interval training exercises. You wouldn’t necessarily want to do this with burpees, or like I said, with full sprint. But it would also work really well on some cardio machines, like the bike again, where you can bump up the intensity.
So say if it’s on a 1 to 10 scale with that gauge where you can crank it up. You’d want to be going at maybe a six for that 90 second higher intensity pace and then dial it back to a two for that three to five minute recovery phase.
It would work I think pretty well on an elliptical machine again, where you just increase the intensity and maybe the pace you’re going at a little bit and then you can slow it right down and you can even go backwards, just kind of vary it up and get like a more recovery phase. It would work again well.
On a treadmill, it just might take you a little while to kind of narrow it down to the exact speeds you need to increase it to for that higher intensity phase and then drop it right back down.
So it works better with some of these cardio things. And a lot of the research is based around the cardio choices. Like I said, you’re not going to do this with squat presses per say because you’d be doing almost 10 minutes of a continuous exercise, which would be too long, so a bit more suited to a cardiovascular aspect.
And again, depending on your level of fitness, this might be just thinking of other examples, and it might be swimming where you would do a comfortable stroke for that 90 seconds, if you can count it, and then either slow it down and just do some slow walking through the pool.
I don’t know what you have access to, but that kind of thing. So I think you can think of different forms. This would work well if, like I said, that running, jogging, walking combo is one of the best, whether it’s the treadmill or outside or anything like that.
How LIIT Works?
High intensity interval training has been studied to death like it’s constantly looked at and monitored. But this low intensity interval training is being observed more now, too.
And I’m looking at this one study from the American Physiological Society in the Journal of Applied Physiology and they’re looking at this low volume, high intensity interval training.
And they are seeing it to reduce hypoglycemia and increase that muscle, mitochondrial capacity. Remember I said that about 50 percent more fat is going into the mitochondria to be burned off, and that was the advantage of the HIIT training.
This thing is happening with the low intensity training, too. So they’re looking at patients with type-2 diabetes and finding these results from this low volume interval training.
Again some more research is being done looking at just the walking aspect, like changing the intensity of the walking from that slow recovery pace to a brisker intensity.
It’s at the Ohio State University and they measured the benefits of walking at those varying speeds and they specifically wanted to see and measure the calories burned or what the metabolic changes are going to be of just changing those speeds.
And they determined ultimately, this is where it sort of kicks off this- looking at this low intensity training, we are really underestimating the number of calories burned even while just walking in daily life or while we play sports or what not.
And in fact, that eight percent of the energy is used during daily walking, maybe due to energy we spend just starting and stopping.
So whether you’re tying a shoe or as you walk, just say if you’re walking on your block or walking your dog, it’s not always steady state. It’s just that this stopping and going process is potentially providing a lot of benefit.
So if you’re walking a dog and it stops, doing its thing and whatever, then you get going again, around eight percent of the energy use is just from that. So the more you can vary your intensities as you go, that’s what’s providing potentially more these benefits.
Funny as well, they’re just looking at the way you walk. If you’re walking in a curve as opposed to a straight line or if you’re carrying a bag or a backpack, you can burn up to 20 percent more calories than walking at a consistent pace.
It just seems like our bodies respond much better to this sort of segmented activity when you’re doing things at different intervals. Our body just responds best to that.
And this relates with the Canadian study here and they were supporting the idea that you can lose weight and get healthy with low intensity interval training.
It doesn’t mean you should ditch the HIIT training because that’s still effective, it’s just showing that it’s possible to still get some good results from doing this low intensity style.
So what they did was they split the participants of the study into two groups with one group performing the short high intensity workouts and the other exercising at low intensity for a longer interval of time. And both types of exercise yielded the same results when it came to calories burned and abdominal fat loss, which is really interesting.
So looking at this a little further, this is from Queens University here in Ontario, which is in Kingston, Ontario. They were looking at patients at risk for diabetes or heart disease, obesity issues, etc. and looking at this different style training.
Obviously, exercise has been shown to reduce obesity and that glucose tolerance issue we talked about, as well as insulin resistance and sensitivity. In the actual statistics- there’s three hundred, where they considered obese adults to determine the separate effects of the exercise amount and the intensity on how it helped burning stomach fat and improving that glucose tolerance.
So they were all randomly assigned, and they did the high intensity or the long, low intensity workouts five times a week and they monitored and were instructed to eat healthy diet.
They didn’t change their calorie intake, instead they just focused on real whole foods, which obviously plays a huge part in everything. But they wanted to keep things as the same as possible.
So 24 weeks later, all of them experienced the similar reductions in their waist circumference and the high intensity group experience a little lower, better reduction in how their body was, potentially overly insulin resistant to start with to lower that, so that the high intensity interval training will always be a little more effective, but it was still effective for the low intensity group.
So, what they did from their School of Kinesiology here at Queens, that the idea of the results show a really clear benefit too. Don’t get rid of the high intensity interval training, it is super effective and helpful. But for those who think, like I mentioned earlier, if you think they may be too difficult or your new or you’re older or whatever, the results can still be achieved simply by increasing how you do your normal walking.
Like I said, if it’s that lighter jogging phase, and if you start this low intensity interval training, you can see some of the same results that come from the high intensity interval training, you know, walking at that brisker pace, the light jog or whatnot.
And the interesting thing, when they were talking and getting feedback from the people after, the participants were surprised how easy it was for them to attain this higher level training.
They’re used to just walking all the time. And it didn’t take long for their body to adapt and be able to go more intense and intense in that 90 second period. So, another example he gave, which is effective, say you’re doing your work on a treadmill.
He said all you have to do is just maybe increase the incline on it while walking on a treadmill to go at that brisker pace. So, you’re starting off for five to eight minutes, walking comfortably. Bump that or incline up and then do that for your 90 seconds and see how that feels.
Drop it back down for the three to five minutes at the comfortable pace, lower down and then, like I said, play around with it. So there’s lots of ways to do it. And there’s more studies of this, so I won’t go into them.
I just wanted to show you that what’s being looked at and how effective it is seeing to be for reducing body fat and improving some of those hormonal markers in the body.
So, yeah, pretty promising! And, not ditching the HIIT training at all. But this is a great place to start. Or if you’re new to fitness and you’ve been trying some different things and playing around with cardio machines, then this is something that you can add into it very easily to start getting better benefits.
And it’ll help maybe propel you into more intense exercises later and then maybe into more of like a strength training program or whatnot.
So it has a good foundation in kind of setting your body up to get into this better response position by doing these intervals, in whatever form there.
So I’ll cut it off there, hopefully that’s good. If you have any more questions about this whole deal, like I said, I’ve been looking at this for the last few weeks and like it’s relatively new, but there’s some decent research and information out there that’s not super publicized.
I don’t know if this is something that will grow, but I think for the people maybe wanting to start things off a little easier and they’re looking for a little more of a challenge, this low intensity interval training is perfect.
And it’s interesting because I’ve always worked with a lot of younger athletes and stuff, and it’s always high intensity interval training, basically super crazy, hard stuff like that. But they’re athletes, they can handle it.
And the low intensity interval training is something relatively new to me, too. And it’s working good with some of the people I work with who are maybe a little older or they’ve been off of fitness for a little while or, you know, joint problems, that’s always the big one.
Resources Mentioned In This Episode:
- Regained Wellness episode #37: Benefits of High-Intensity Interval Training
- My high-intensity interval training blog
- Episode #30: Tabata training
- Ohio State University study on varying walking pace for more calorie burning
- Queens University study on low-intensity interval training benefits
- Information on my online health coaching
So that’s all the very promising information on low-intensity interval training. Hopefully, you learned some more on interval training in general and how our body seems to respond much better to it. It’s easy to incorporate in and you can do it anywhere and without equipment.