From resistance training to cardio & mobility exercises, here’s how to build a fitness routine to help guard against future age-related concerns

When it comes to fitness, one size definitely doesn’t fit all. We’re each on a journey to find the type of exercise that works best for our needs, lifestyle and goals to keep our mind and body healthy. But how can we mix things up to help get our heart rate up and keep fitness motivation levels high?

Here’s the advice: the NHS recommends doing at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity workout activity or 75 minutes of vigorous physical activity a week. These should be spread evenly over four to five days, and incorporate strength activities that work all the major muscle groups on at least two days a week.

But finding the balance between intensity and results can be tricky. When it comes to high intensity vs low intensity, which will work better for you? We asked two leading trainers to break down the difference between a HIIT workout (high-intensity interval training) and a LIIT workout (low-intensity interval training) so you can hit that sweet spot every time you hit the gym.

Want to make sure your workout is getting your heart rate where it should be? Check out our guide to the best fitness trackers and smartwatches to help you get there.

What is HIIT?

HIIT stands for high-intensity interval training. “It’s is a highly effective form of exercise that uses interval structures to alternate between intense periods of explosive moves and short rest times,” explains Tammy Sapir, trainer at F45 Mill Hill

“In the working periods, you need to try to use as much energy as possible, pushing your heart rate to perform at 80% to 90% of its maximum. It can be time effective and, in the days following, you can burn more fat and boost your metabolism as your body recovers from the high level of intensity.

“HIIT exercise examples could be sprinting on a treadmill or outside, using a bike to perform quick intervals, or bodyweight drills such as jump squats and mountain climbers.”

Want to see it in action? Check out the 30-minute HIIT workout from David Lloyd below.

What is LIIT?

LIIT stands for low-intensity interval training. Good news if going hard makes you wish you’d stayed at home. “LIIT is a gentler and more manageable workout and consists of low-impact exercises performed in intervals followed by a slower-paced recovery period,” explains Callum Stewart, physiotherapist and personal trainer at CS Coaching.

“LIIT exercises can be a jog, brisk walk, cycling or rowing.”

Tammy continues: “LIIT still uses interval structures, you won’t be pushing yourself as hard as you might during a HIIT-based workout, but in LIIT, you’re still looking to get your heart rate between 60% to 70% of its maximum.”

Intrigued? Try this 15-minute beginner’s workout from David Lloyd.

How does LIIT differ from LISS?

We know, another acronym! But one that can often get confused with LIIT despite it being pretty different. “Low-intensity steady state cardio (LISS) is a form of cardio that requires a lower intensity and doesn’t require explosive aerobic moves,” explains Tammy.

“This type of exercise needs to be performed slower and over longer periods,” she says. “The aim is to keep the heart rate around the same level and not elevated too much throughout. This can be good for endurance training and for people with lower fitness levels to ease them into exercise.”

So what heart rate should you be aiming for? “These long, consistently paced cardio workouts target a heart rate of 45% to 65%,” suggests Callum.

“The main difference is that LISS workouts do not have the same level of intervals that LIIT has.

“LISS exercise examples include long distance running, walking and cycling, rowing and other forms of slower-paced cardio,” says Tammy.

What are the benefits of HIIT and LIIT workouts?

“In both cases, your heart is going to get a workout, which is great news for your heart health, and cardiovascular activity,” begins Tammy.

Callum continues: “The main benefits of HIIT are that it can produce many of the same health benefits as other forms of exercises, but in a much shorter amount of time.

“As such, it’s an extremely good method for people who are time restricted and looking to squeeze in a workout that raises their heart rate, boosts stamina and burns fat – even after the workout has finished.”

Can low-impact HIIT be effective? “Yes. It’s a better option for people who are just starting out in their fitness journey, recovering from an injury, or potentially overweight and looking to get into exercise,” Callum explains.

LIIT has wider ranging appeal for those looking to support their heart health while being less stressful on their body.

“While some may think you can only see results if you push yourself to the maximum, LIIT actually proves that you can build muscular endurance and improve your cardiovascular abilities without having to do intense exercises some are not able to do,” says Callum.

“With HIIT, the body burns fat for hours post exercise, even days,” says Tammy. “It can be quite an extreme way of exercising, but has excellent results and benefits.”

Are there any drawbacks?

“Although there are many positive health benefits to LIIT and HIIT, as with anything, these types of workouts can have some drawbacks and it’s entirely dependent on a person’s capabilities as to what they prefer,” explains Callum.

“With HIIT, there’s an increased risk of injury. It can be hard to stay motivated as each session requires a lot of energy and it can be overwhelming for people who are just starting out.” You may also need a longer recovery time between workouts.

“While LIIT can often be recommended to people who are returning to exercise from an injury, it can be a much slower and longer workout, therefore requiring more time,” he explains. “As the intensity bursts are reduced, LIIT doesn’t raise the heart rate as much as you would in a HIIT session.”

How do I know which intensity is best for me?

It’s important to think about your goals, fitness levels and lifestyle. You might find you like a mixture of HIIT, LIIT and LISS.

“If you want to perform quicker and faster, HIIT is best,” suggests Tammy.

“If you want to go slower and longer, you might be geared towards LISS. If you’re somewhere in the middle, LIIT could be the best option.

“All are great forms of exercise, but the bottom line is to do what you enjoy the most. It’s unlikely you’ll stick with something if you hate it, so find out what style you prefer and you’ll be able to progress and use it over a long period of time.”

Take your at-home HIIT & LIIT workouts to the next level
Primal Strength Premium Yoga Mat

• Length: 1.8m

• Material: rubber

Working out at home? Avoid slips on carpet or bumpy landings with this padded mat. It offers enough grip for you to really go for it and enough comfort for you to really melt into your cool down.

Primal Strength Mini Band Set

• Contains 3 resistances

Need to step things up but don’t have the space for a full weight rack? We’ve got your back. Small and light enough to throw in your gym bag post workout, these surprisingly versatile bands are perfect for leg training and glute activation, adding an impressive 15kg to 22.5kg of resistance and power to your bodyweight workout.