People want to lose fat, gain muscle, and not spend a lot of time doing it. An easy way to accomplish this is... There is no easy way. The quickest and most effective way to lose fat and increase muscle is through High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT). HIIT is based on short, intense burst of full capacity exercise followed by low activity or rest in intervals. The more intense the exercise, the less you do. The idea that aerobic exercise burns fat is phasing out. Although it does improve aerobic capacity; a study from The Cochrane Collaboration found moderate, aerobic activity to produce negligible weight loss.
Less time, greater resultsWith rising numbers of overweight and obese individuals who are generally lazy to begin with, a prolonged exercise routine lasting one hour, five times a week is "too much." This is exactly where HIIT excels. HIIT workouts last 20-30 minutes, three times a week and achieve double the fat loss as 30-60 minutes of moderate aerobic activity. These workouts increase the basal metabolic rate and improve the muscles fat oxidation and glucose tolerance leading to quick and lasting results. HIIT workouts increase levels of several hormones including growth hormone, catecholamines (epinephrine, dopamine), and cortisol.
Long-term health benefitsLong-term benefits of HIIT include increased aerobic and anaerobic fitness, skeletal muscle adaptations, and lower glucose sensitivity. Type II diabetics showed improved insulin sensitivity by 23-58 percent with HIIT. A study involving older Type II diabetic males found eight weeks of HIIT provided no change in body mass, but abdominal fat was decreased by 44 percent. Another similar study involving males and females found HIIT combined with steady activity reduced visceral fat by 48 percent and subcutaneous fat by 18 percent.
I could go on and on. The benefits of HIIT are emerging as a potential "solution" to the obesity exercise dilemma (or lack thereof). Research is expanding in this field and more information is needed in regards to "minimum dose," optimal length and intensity for varied health outcomes, mechanism of fat loss, and a safe and sustainable protocol for different patient groups.
Get started today!Want to start? The most commonly used and effective method in research has been the Wingate protocol. This uses a stationary bike and includes four to six 30 second full out sprints with one to two minutes rest between sprints. There are several variations including eight second sprints with twelve seconds rest for 20 minutes, or 24 seconds with 36 seconds recovery. Don't have a bike? Try regular sprints for 30 seconds with a one to two minute rest between. In any case, exercise should last no more than 30 minutes and usually fall within the 15-25 minute range. These should only be performed three times per week until your conditioning improves enough to add more. Don't like either of those options? Try Crossfit, this is HIIT at its finest involving functional, multiple muscle movements at high intensity with the added support of others like you going through the workout. There is nobody that is too out-of-shape that won't benefit from starting one of these workouts and noticing the results to both your appearance and your health. A difference will be noticed in as few as two weeks.
Shaw K, Gennet H, O'Rourke P, Del Mar C. Exercise for Overweight or Obesity. John Wiley & Sons; 2006. The Cochrane Collaboration.
About the author:
Dr. Daniel Zagst is a chiropractic physician at Advanced Health & Chiropractic in Mooresville, NC. He has a BS in Professional Studies of Adjunctive Therapies, Doctorate of Chiropractic from NYCC, and an Advanced Certificate in Sport Science and Human Performance.