Many of you that work with me know that I am a huge fan of High Intensity Interval Training or HIIT workouts.
Exercise is beneficial for many reasons and I encourage everyone to do it. It is wonderful for mood, bone health and cardiovascular health to name a few. However, contrary to popular belief, more exercise does not equate to more weight loss. Instead of working out more, we need to exercise “smarter” and more intensely.
The Copenhagen City Heart Study examined over 1000 healthy joggers and nearly 4000 non joggers in Denmark over the course of 12 years. Those that ran more than 4 hours a week or more than 3 days a week seemed to have the same mortality risk as those that didn’t exercise at all. Those that ran 2.5 hours per week had the lowest risk of mortality in this study. The take home from this is that more is not always better….
However if you want to lose weight, intensity is your friend. The easiest way to explain the benefits of intense workouts, is to compare them to fuel efficiency. What form of driving will burn the most amount of fuel (aka fat), highway driving, or stop and start driving in the city? Of course…stop and start driving in the city. This is the same analogy for doing a stop and start HIIT workout compared to going for a 2 hour run.
When you work out with intensity, the “burstlike” activity causes your body to release fight or flight stress hormones. These stress hormones break down stored fat in the body to free fatty acids so they can be converted to energy. Intense working out also depletes the energy stored in the muscle called glycogen so the body has to rely on the fat for fuel.
So here is the easy trick….
One way to really take advantage of this fat burn is to do low intensity work for 30min after your interval training. This could be housework, or going for a light walk. We want to keep the body moving so the free fatty acids that were released during the interval training are shunted into the muscle to be burned.
I typically do cardio HIIT training twice per week, and then tend to do housework or errands afterwards to get in my 30min. If you have a pet, do your HIIT and then take the dog for a walk. I like tabata style training which is 20-30 seconds of intense work followed by 10 seconds of rest for 12-15min
The other great thing about this type of exercise is that everyone can make the time to fit it in. It is hard to justify not having 15min in a day to commit to exercise.
Here are some of my favourite resources for HIIT training, please feel free to share yours
These workouts can also be done on a treadmill or bike. Simply do 20 seconds of hard work followed by a 10 second recovery for 12-15min
One more thing I should mention is that I separate exercise from movement. While I promote short intense exercise, I still encourage people to move (walking, or light biking, dancing, playing with the kids) as much as possible.
NOTE – HIIT training is not for everyone. If you have health concerns please speak to a health professional before starting any new activity.