Low-Intensity Workouts That Work

A standard seems to exist in the hardcore fitness world that the only way to get results is to push yourself as hard as possible every time you work out.  

While it makes sense that you would need to push yourself in order to see results, grinding out as many reps as you can humanly muster is not always necessary.

In fact, many high-level sports programs incorporate low-intensity workouts into their regimen to best train their athletes.

Regardless of whether you are training for the Olympics, or just trying to get into shape, low-intensity workouts can help you reach your fitness goals!

What are Low-Intensity Workouts

A woman doing a low-intensity workout

It can be common to hear exercises categorized as “low”, “moderate” or “high” intensity. 

But what really distinguishes each of these from the other is how much a certain activity elevates your heart rate.

Everyone has an age-predicted max heart rate, which is calculated by subtracting your age from 220. So if you’re 25 years old, your max heart rate would be 195 beats per minute (220-25=195).

Low-intensity workouts include exercise that elevates your heart rate to about 40-50% of your max heart rate. Because of this definition, low-intensity can vary from one person to another.

However, if you don’t have a heart rate monitor, you can use perceived exertion by assessing how you feel during a certain exercise.

For example, when taking a walk, if your breathing pattern doesn’t change, you can carry on a conversation and you are not sweating heavily, this activity can be considered a low-intensity workout.

Benefits of Low-Intensity Workouts

A woman on a treadmill

Newsflash: you don’t need to be breaking records to reap the benefits of working out.

Science Daily reports a study showing that sedentary adults who engaged in 20 minutes of low-intensity exercise every day had reduced levels of fatigue in comparison to non-exercisers and those who engaged in moderate-intensity exercise.

Low-intensity workouts allow for just about anyone to reap the benefits of exercise no matter the fitness level.

The benefits of low-intensity exercise include:

  • Burn fat and calories
  • Improve cardiovascular function
  • Build muscular endurance (this is done by performing a high number of reps with low resistance)
  • Boost circulation
  • Improve mood

I can’t stress enough that low-intensity workouts can be great for all different kinds of people!

This type of workout can be a great option for those with unique situations such as chronic pain or illness, those struggling with severe asthma or heart conditions, or during pregnancy.

Low-intensity workouts also allow for experienced athletes to have active recovery days.

Fitness does not have to be an all or nothing pursuit!

Types of Low-Intensity Exercise

Three of the most common types of low-intensity exercise include:

1. Low-Intensity Interval training (LIIT)

A woman lifting weights

Instead of requiring quick and intense intervals like those you would find in a HIIT workout, LIIT workouts intersperse strength-training intervals with longer rest breaks but require you to do each rep with as perfect form as you possibly can.

You’ll still feel your muscles burning, but you won’t be panting or fighting the urge to vomit.

2. Walking for Weight Loss

The human body requires calories to convert into energy to do every single basic function that we perform.

While attaining a sufficient number of calories is important for everyday life, a surplus can generally lead to weight gain.

On the other hand, a deficit of calories can lead to weight loss.

So, to be losing weight, we must be burning more calories than we are taking in. Walking can be an efficient, low-stress way to burn those calories.

Walking at a brisk pace for just one mile generally can burn around 90 calories, and this can be intensified by walking on steeper terrain.

Incorporating more physical activity into your day-to-day life can allow you to reap the benefits of exercise without overexerting yourself!

(Walking for weight loss is awesome, but there may be a better way!)

3. Low-Intensity Steady State Cardio (LISS)

A woman running on a treadmill

LISS is considered doing consistent light cardio at about 50% of your max heart rate for an extended period.

Over time, LISS cardio can help train your body to better use fat as a fuel source.

This is a low impact way to strengthen the tendons and ligaments that provide daily function, preparing your body for more intense workouts.

Because of the low impact nature of LISS cardio, it can be done multiple days in a row as well.

With this kind of cardio, it is important that you do not solely rely on it as your only source of exercise.

Our bodies adapt quickly, so this is a good way to switch things up, but you shouldn’t just rely on 45 minutes on the elliptical for all your workouts.

Working Out Without Burning Out

We as human beings require variation. It wouldn’t be good for your body to be squatting heavy weights every day, and the same is true for every type of difficult exercise. 

It’s important to give your body a break.

Low-intensity workouts not only let you burn calories in a low-stress way, but they allow your body a chance to actively rest and recover from more intense workouts.

So, whether you are just taking the first few steps on your fitness journey, or you’re an experienced athlete who needs a little rest, low-intensity training provides an incredible opportunity for you to better yourself!  

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Siena Becker

Siena Becker

Writer and expert

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