Most people know that exercise should be a part of their weight-loss plan, but it can be difficult to decide what type of exercise routine is best. You may think you will have to spend hours at the gym every day; however, with the right regimen, you can spend less time exercising and still lose weight. High-intensity interval training, sometimes simply called interval training, is one of the best kinds of exercise for weight loss.
What is High-Intensity Interval Training?
According to the authors of a 2012 report in Australian Family Physician, high-intensity interval training means exercising at a high intensity for 30 seconds or more, and then following up with a recovery period. This recovery period, the authors explained, can be a period of low-intensity exercise or of complete rest. For instance, someone doing this type of workout may sprint for 30 seconds and then walk for two minutes to recover, repeating this cycle six times.
How Effective is High-Intensity Interval Training?
The research shows that high-intensity interval training is effective for weight and fat loss in both men and women. In a 2014 study published in Applied Physiology, Nutrition, & Metabolism, female subjects completed three weekly sessions of interval training for a total of six weeks. The sessions consisted of four to six sprints, each followed by four minutes of rest. At the end of the study, participants lost an average of 8 percent body fat and decreased their waist sizes by 3.5 percent.
In 2010, a study in the journal Metabolism found that overweight men who completed six total sessions of interval training during a two-week period experienced significant reductions in their waist and hip sizes. In the 24 hours following each exercise session, the men also experienced an increase in fat burn. The men in the study cycled at a sprint pace for 30 seconds and then rested for 4 ½ minutes, repeating this cycle four to six times.
How Does High-Intensity Interval Training Compare to Other Exercise Routines?
Research on high-intensity interval training suggests that it may be more effective than exercising at a continuous pace. In 2008, researchers for the International Journal of Obesity compared women who exercised at a steady pace to women who completed interval training. The two groups of women exercised three times per week for 15 weeks. Compared to those who exercised at a steady pace, women who completed interval training lost a significant amount of body weight, body fat, and trunk fat.
A 2012 study in The Journal of Sports Medicine & Physical Fitness yielded similar results. Researchers for this study compared high-intensity interval training to moderate exercise at a steady pace. After 12 weeks, both types of exercise resulted in improvements in body composition, but the improvement was more pronounced among those who did interval training.
A more recent study, which appeared in a 2015 edition of Kinesiology, compared the effectiveness of high-intensity interval training to moderate intensity exercise at a continuous pace for overweight women. The women completed 12 weeks of exercise and worked out four times per week. At the end of the study, women in the two groups lost equivalent amounts of body fat, but women who completed interval training lost more abdominal fat than did women who exercised at a continuous pace.
Not only is high-intensity interval training more effective than moderate exercise in reducing belly fat, but it can also result in weight loss, fat loss, and reductions in waist size among those who exercise only three times per week. If you can make time for 20 minutes of interval training three days per week, you will be well on your way to achieving your weight-loss goals, and you will not have to dedicate your life to the gym.