Exercise Types 101: Exercise Styles + Their Benefits

As Bernd Heinrich once said, “Movement is the essence of life.” There are so many different benefits that come along with staying active and moving your body. Movement doesn’t happen to be exercise, but exercise in itself has many benefits as well.

We will be breaking down four popular exercise styles and the unique benefits that come along with them.

Low Intensity Steady-State (LISS)

LISS requires you to stay at about 50-60 percent of your maximum heart rate for an extended amount of time (30-60 minutes).  As the name indicates this style of exercise involves low impact movements such as power walking, biking, using the elliptical or stair climber.

How it works:

It’s pretty simple, keep low intensity movement going for an extended period of time. You should be able to carry a full conversation while doing this movement (think 3-4 on a scale of 10 for intensity). This is great for people who do have some time on their hands to dedicate to cardio workouts. You can hop on a cardio machine for 30-60 minutes while catching up on the latest TV show, scrolling through your timeline or catching up on emails. This can also be done by taking a brisk walk around your neighborhood or riding your bike.


There are a few perks to doing LISS. First off, if you are new to this fitness game this would be a great place for you to start because it is low intensity and you will be able to become conditioned and your body will better be able to tap into fat as an energy source over time. This is also low impact, so it is not a lot of stress on ligaments, tendons, joints and muscles. Another major perk is that because the intensity is low, recovery time is low, and you can do LISS multiple days in a row. LISS can also be used as active recovery for those who enjoy more intense workouts that require more recovery time between sessions.

Bottom Line:

LISS is a great way to get cardiovascular conditioning, it may not be best for those who are looking for time-efficient workouts, it’s useful for those needing more recovery time between intense workouts, it’s low stress and a great choice for those with joint or muscle pains.

Hight Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)

Meet the older, more intense sibling of LISS. HIIT involves short bursts of intense exercise followed directly by a short recovery period. This is done in intervals and these workouts typically last 30 minutes or less.

How it works:

Because the intense bursts are short, they are anaerobic (don’t use oxygen). After the intense burst is over and you enter the short resting period, your body is craving more oxygen. The rest periods are short which doesn’t allow your oxygen levels to completely recover, this manipulates your heart rate. Your heart rate will stay elevated even during the rest periods of the interval and this leads to the body using fat as an energy store more in a short amount of time. Depending on your fitness level you can adjust your work and rest times. HIIT is most effective when kept at a 2:1 work-to-rest ratio.


You that you could reap the calorie burning benefits of a HIIT workout up to 24 hours after the workout. This is because of excess post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC). Let’s put it this way, your oxygen stores are depleted after you finish an intense HIIT workout. Your body has to work hard to restore those oxygen levels, which can take anywhere between 12 and 24 hours. Your body is basically working overtime and in turn burning calories even after your workout is done. Talk about bang for your buck. HIIT workouts can be done in a short amount of time, they can last anywhere between 4-30 minutes. These workouts can also be done anywhere! Although you can do  HIIT exercises that include equipment you can do an entire HIIT workout without any equipment.

Bottom Line:

You get a lot of bang for your buck with HIIT. You can tap into your fat stores in a short amount time and continue to burn calories post-workout. HIIT is just as its name suggest, intense. It may take some time for your body to take the intensity of longer HIIT workouts but even starting with shorter HIIT workouts will be beneficial.

Bodyweight Exercise (BW)

The exercise style that has truly stood the test of time. With body weight exercises you use only your body as resistance, no machines, no equipment. Some main staples in BW training are lunges, squats, pushups, pull ups and planks.

How It works:

All you need is your body, some space and a desire for a good sweat. The unique part about BW exercises is that your body is the machine and your body is doing the work. Because of this, even though some exercises may be more focused on the lower body, upper body or core, the exercise still utilizes the entire body.


There are many things that you may find beneficial about BW exercises. For one, these total body movements can help with your mobility and stability (which is extremely important, especially for the aging population). You can get creative! There is so much variety in the movements that you can do with just bodyweight. It is easy to make modifications to BW exercises to fit your fitness level. Last but certainly not least, these exercises can be done anytime and anywhere (even at your desk or in the break room at work)!

Resistance Training (RT)

Resistance Training uses some type out outside resistance to oppose the force of our muscles. RT is typically associated building muscles and achieving an aesthetic but there are many health benefits of RT that go beyond the muscle.

How it works:

Typically weights (barbells or barbells), resistance bands, medicine balls, and machines are used for resistance training. Resistance training is another way of amping up body weight exercises. Do the same body weight exercises but now you can add external resistance. Keep in mind, if you are adding resistance this is added stress to your body (muscles, tendons, joints, ligaments). Stress is not necessarily a bad thing; in fact, our bodies get stronger when placed under proper stress. Because of the stress it is important to get proper rest and fuel your body with nutrients needed to ensure that your body recovers.


We know that RT can be accompanied by aesthetic benefits, but do you know the true health benefits? First, RT can improve your physical function. You can gain strength and body control, which can make every day life activities easier. As you age, physical function will eventually decrease but performing resistance training can help to reduce the effects of aging. Studies have shown that two or more months of consistent strength training can reduce blood pressure in participants with hypertension. Many women struggle with bone mineral density, many studies have shown significant increase in BMD in both men and women who participate in regular resistance training.

Bottom Line:

The aesthetic benefits of resistance training are cool and all, but the health benefits definitely outweigh them (pun intended). If you are going to do strength training just remember: Don’t over-stress your body, make sure you properly fuel your body and allow time for your body to fully recover.


The big take away is that staying active daily is going to be beneficial for your health. Sit less, move more. There are so many different ways to incorporate movement in your day. If you do choose to make exercise your physical activity, understand the benefits of different exercise styles to determine which one best fits your lifestyle and fitness level.

Regardless, get out and move today!

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