How Does Low-Intensity Cardio Work? The Lowdown

Last Updated: January 8, 2022

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low intensity cardioWhen it comes to exercise, there are a lot of varieties you can choose from. Finding the perfect one that will work for you is sometimes hard – especially if you’re just starting out.

I used to have bad habits so I wasn’t always the most confident with my physique and it showed. I knew I had to address my habits as well as my body issues. 

However, I didn’t instantly feel that kick of motivation and dedication to the workouts and meal plans that I was doing.

First, I tried HIIT or high-intensity interval training because it admittedly looked ‘cooler’ and seemed like it would make me fitter faster. I even gave fasted cardio a go whilst I was doing the 16:8 diet (Intermittent fasting). 

 I thought that I was going into fitness with the right strategy in mind. But it was just too difficult especially for someone who was just starting out.

So I researched exercises that didn’t require too much effort. One of those was low-intensity cardio. Even though the recovery time is longer in LISS or low-intensity steady-state, it worked out for me greatly because it’s just as effective as HIIT.

If you’re here and are wondering if it’s also the right one for you, I listed some of the things that low-intensity cardio can help you out with, exercises you can do, and some drawbacks you can experience while undergoing this workout.

Everything You Need To Know About Low Intensity-Cardio

What is low-intensity cardio?

Low-intensity cardio refers to any physical activity or exercise that raises your heart rate but not too much. Workouts or exercises in this category lasts longer than in high-intensity cardio. It can typically last to 30-60 minutes per cardio workout.

Some people recommend this for those who are already having intense training with weights or for people who just want to burn a few more calories.

You can even sing or watch movies while doing low-intensity exercises. The kind of training you will do is a consistent and steady workout. It builds your aerobic capacity which in turn lets your body break down fats and carbs into energy.

This will also lessen your fatigue as well as less strain on your joints or ligaments due to lesser intensity.

How does low-intensity cardio work?

Not all of us can participate in high-intensity training. Some have gone through injuries or illnesses that prevent them to push their bodies to a higher limit.

If you’ve also experienced that and are currently trying to get started with your fitness journey, doing low-intensity cardio training can absolutely work. Low-intensity cardio training enhances your aerobic capacity without having your heart rate skyrocket.

Before starting out a workout program, you can talk to a doctor. This may help you have some knowledge if this kind of cardio will work for you best. Low-intensity cardio will keep your heart rate at 40-60% max. Selecting a proper workout for you can be determined by getting the appropriate max heart rate.

When you’re at the beginning stage of this cardio, you’ll probably burn over 100 calories per mile. It helps build up your muscular endurance.

Another thing it does is it has been proven to help control your appetite because you won’t be feeling too hungry because you didn’t work out quite as hard as the ones done during high-intensity workouts.

This type of cardio doesn’t put too much strain on your body. You’d be able to relax and take some time while you get to your desired shape.

If you’re already undergoing an intense workout, a low-intensity cardio training can be a perfect mix to complement your routine as it can help your body to balance the different levels of your workout levels.

Low-intensity cardio vs High-intensity cardio

For low-intensity cardio, it will require you more time to do your desired exercises. The type of physical activities involved in this doesn’t require you to move in which raises your heart rate. Unlike with high-intensity cardio, your workouts are quick, but the cardio exercises are much harder.

These two can also be called LISS or HIIT. LISS stands for Low-Intensity Steady State. These kinds of workouts include walking, swimming, or rowing. Any activity that lets you burn calories or fats without having to go too hard to fall under this category.

For HIIT, it stands for High-Intensity Interval Training. Workouts in this category are much harder but can be done faster. Some examples of these workouts include running and jump roping.

The idea for HIIT is to go as hard as possible to burn more calories or fats in your body. Your heart rate often skyrockets due to the intensity of the workouts. In LISS’s case, it will take you some time but will get to your results slowly but surely. Both kinds can be done with or without any special gym equipment.

A HIIT workout can typically last 10-20 minutes and your heart rate can reach 70 to 90% max. On the other hand, LISS exercises can typically last for about 30 to 60 minutes and your maximum heart rate can reach 40 to 60% max.

Some Examples Of Low-Intensity Cardio Workouts You Can Do


Jogging is an example of low-intensity cardio. You can simply do this at any time that works out for you. Consistency plays a big part when you want to burn fat while including this exercise in your routine.

An activity like jogging can burn fats just as much as high-intensity cardio workouts. Make sure to stay hydrated when you’re out for your jog!

If you’re looking for ways to improve on your stride I did a post on 17 tips to become a better runner.

Lap swimming

Swimming is not only a relaxing way to exercise, but it can also help to burn fat on your body. Lap swimming is effective to strengthen your core muscles at the back and the abdomen.

It also improves your endurance as well as your cardiovascular health. Other benefits of this activity are increased flexibility and balance. Not to mention the weight loss benefits with how much calories swimming burns.

Starting this doesn’t mean you have to go for 20 laps each day. You have to ease into it and gradually increase the amount of time you spend swimming. You can start by swimming for at least 10-15 minutes each for five days a week.

Once you really start getting into it you may want to track your lap times with a stopwatch or a smartwatch for swimming.

Indoor cycling

Indoor cycling is a kind of exercise that can be low or high-intensity. It doesn’t matter if you’re in a cycling class or at home, this kind of exercise can help you to burn fat consistently.

It helps a lot with cardiovascular endurance and it strengthens your legs as well. You can join classes or have your own cycling session at home. Having an exercise bike in your home will definitely help you save and you can exercise whenever you want!


Rowing provides more muscle workout compared to other forms of low-intensity cardio. You can burn up to 600-800 calories per hour when doing this exercise. Doing this activity can test your muscular and cardiovascular endurance as well as your strength.

Over time, it can make you stronger and more efficient. According to a rowing site, this type of exercise is a two-for-one workout – like a combination of lifting and running. The endurance benefits for me far outweigh the others though.

I previously did a review on some of the best stamina rowing machines if you’re interesting in finding more about them as I’ve prepared a full guide on what to look out for as well.

Doing housework (No, seriously!)

Who would’ve guessed that keeping your house clean also means you can burn some calories? It is way cheaper and an efficient way to start with your low-intensity workout. Cleaning your house isn’t easy, but it’s worth it.

Not only for what your house will look afterward, but also the fact that you’re burning a lot of calories just by scrubbing the floors or cleaning the bathroom. Health experts have recommended people to move daily to improve their health, so why not start by doing some housework daily, right?

Benefits Of Doing Low-Intensity Cardio

  1. Lessens your fatigue
    Because workouts in this category are much easier to do, your body won’t get too tired when doing exercises. You’ll have time to adjust and make yourself comfortable afterward. It won’t leave a strain to your body after you’ve done your training.

  2. Improves your cardiovascular endurance
    For the amount of time you spent doing workouts under this category, it builds up your cardiovascular endurance over time. It leaves you with a much stronger self and capabilities as time goes by.

  3. Burns fat
    New research says low-intensity cardio workouts can burn just as much fat as high-intensity ones. I think this just all comes down to your preference whether you’d go for the longer but less hard one or the other that’s faster, but can get you tired easily.

  4. Helps you recover after a long and high-intensity workout
    You can use this as an additional way to balance out your exercises during your weight loss journey. As it is in a Steady-State, you’d be able to relax and rest your body for minutes. While doing so, you’d still be able to burn calories and fats.

  5. You are less likely to get injured
    Due to it not being way too intense unlike other workouts, you are assured that you won’t get injured in the process. You’d be doing your workout slowly, but surely getting the body results you are aiming for.

  6. Puts less strain on joints, ligaments, and tendons
    Your body won’t be knocked out by too much fatigue and other strains. You’d be able to relax knowing the exercises you’re doing won’t be too much than what your body can handle.

  7. Improves blood circulation and blood flow
    A lot of research says that workouts truly help our body to function properly. Improved blood circulation and blood flow are beneficial most especially to the elderly. Keeping themselves moving will keep them healthy despite their age.

Drawbacks Of Doing Low-Intensity Cardio

  1. Longer workout time
    As I said, long-intensity cardio workouts will take you long before you achieve your desired results. A typical workout can last from 30-60 minutes each. This is compared to high-intensity workouts that sometimes can just last 10-20 minutes per exercise.

  2. Prolonged workout time can stress your body
    Despite it giving you lesser fatigue, longer periods of exercising can wear you out and stress you. Sometimes, not everyone can handle a workout that lasts more than 20 minutes.

  3. Getting the results you won’t require more time
    Since you have to wait for quite some time to see some results, that may get unmotivated or impatient because you’re not seeing your desired results right away.


Working out is like a reward you can give to yourself. It’s a form of self-care that can guarantee that you’ll feel both good on the inside as well as the outside.

During these trying times, it wouldn’t hurt to try something new or motivate yourself into taking some time to take care of your body. Cardio is a great way to target weight loss however it also improves your overall wellbeing.

If you’re unsure which one will work out best for you – especially if you’ve had injuries and illnesses, you can ask a doctor for advice. Whether you choose a low-intensity workout or not, you should focus on what your goals will be because this will help keep yourself motivated.

With proper sleep, diet, and exercise, you can achieve anything! Trying something different isn’t bad either. Be open to things that can challenge yourself while being able to nurture you deeper on the inside.


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