Not Enough Time to Workout? Fret Not

No time to work out? Unable to spend half the day in the gym? Not enough stamina to last 6 rounds around the track? Or does arriving at the gym with just 30-45 minutes to spare make you give up the day’s workout entirely?

No problem. A short workout need not necessarily be ineffective, and a long workout may not be feasible for you too.

It seems that a brief, typically a couple of minutes long, and intense workout session may be just as effective as much a longer cardio workout to burn off excess fat, according to a new review of how exercise affects one’s fat loss.


Short and Sweet

The review, published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine in January, found that not only do these short intervals of intense exercises burn fat more effectively than it seemed, but they could also even incinerate fat faster than a long walk or jog. However, the key word here is intense.

HIIT, shorthand for high-intensity interval training, involves very brief – between a few minutes or seconds – sets of intense exertion with short rests in between, in which the process is repeated several times. Many HIIT workouts take up less than half an hour, and that is even including warm up and cool down sessions.

While people do not typically associate brief exercises with effective fat metabolism, many studies have shown that such regimes can greatly improve cardiac strength, stamina, blood glucose regulation, blood pressure and other aspects health and fitness, comparable with or even outshining standard endurance workouts like jogging and brisk walking.


Slow-Roasting or Pressure Cooking?

By now, you are likely thinking, “Is HIIT effective in controlling our weight control and losing the flab?”

Not many past studies on the effects of exercise on fat metabolism have compared directly the fat-burning efficacy between long endurance training to short interval sessions, and their findings were inconsistent. Some suggest that short intervals that jumpstart the engine frequently trigger significant fat metabolism while others state that such losses are insignificant as opposed to long endurance ones.

Those studies involved small sample sizes and did not follow the subjects long enough, however, and their variety of measuring instruments and methodologies proved that interpreting their results were difficult and tenuous.

In this new review by Brazilian and British researchers, as much information and data as possible from existing studies of good quality were pulled together to study the effects of intervals on body fat. They found 36 studies of random experiments, not epidemiological data or health surveys, to compare the effects of interval workouts and endurance training.

These experiments had to have a span of a month or more and include physiological measurements from the tests’ beginning to the end. The researchers then gathered the information pooled from the studies to arrive at a data set of more than 1,000 people of both sexes of various ages.

The moderate-exercises as referred to in the studies involved walking, jogging, cycling or swimming, with each instance lasting about 40 minutes, in general. The intervals in the data set typically last for a few minutes at each set at an intensity just short of an all-out effort. Some in the data performed a type of HIIT called SIT, short for sprint-interval training, which involves an all-out exertion for a few seconds for each set.

With the two contrasting data, the researchers evaluated the amount of fat loss after the different regimes.


HIIT Is Your Best Shot

The results are uplifting for those who exercise regularly; both types of training led to fat loss. The subjects both lost actual fat and lost a percentage of fat mass to overall body mass (which means they could have gained more bone and/or muscle mass as well).

That said, the researchers found that interval training tends to lead to more effective fat metabolism i.e. fat loss (and this is especially so when it comes to SIT workouts), as compared to drawn-out endurance exercises. Practitioners of interval training lose, on average, about 1.6kg of fat during most of the studies, while moderate endurance trainers lose about 1.1kgof fat.

Noting that the differences, in reality, is too small to say which is the triumphant mode of weight-loss exercise, it is worth noting that the key take-home pointer is that the similarity of both outcomes means that you can be flexible and employ both approaches.

There is no need to be concerned over which approach or style is better. Simply plan your workouts and decide which approach does your lifestyle allow more, and which style fits you better. Overall, you should work out however you like, and in whichever way motivates you most. If you like a longer but easier exercise, go for a nice jog and soak it all in. But if you want to sprint to the finish line in a blaze of glory, go right ahead!