I was reading the paper this morning when this headline caught my eye -- “Sprinting is better than jogging: Study finds that short bursts can help men lose weight faster.” I found the story interesting and wanted to share the findings with you so you can enhance your own workout.
The study out of the University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia found that eight-second bursts of intense exercise repeated periodically for 20 minutes helped overweight men lose four pounds over a 12-week period. Furthermore, this interval-type of exercise program resulted in a 17-percent reduction in the amount of fat stored around the men’s liver, kidneys and other internal organs. This fat is associated with an increased risk for cardiovascular disease. These findings, as reported by Bloomberg News, have been published in the Journal of Obesity.
The Australian researchers focused on 45 inactive men who were in their 20s. The group was split into two groups – an exercise group and a control group. Those who were placed in the exercise group rode a stationary bicycle for 20 minutes three times a week over a 12-week period. During each session, the men were required to sprint for eight seconds followed by a 12-second recovery phase.
The researchers found that the men in the group that exercised lost weight and also added muscle to their legs and trunk. However, the men in the control group who did not participate in the exercise program saw their weight and waist circumference increase.
“The research also indicates bouts of sprinting over 20 minutes three times a week may be enough to spur a significant reduction in fat, including around the trunk, in overweight young males,” reporter Jason Gale wrote. Lead researcher Dr. Steve Boutcher pointed to other studies that found that other types of aerobic exercises, such as jogging, need to be done for seven hours per week for 14 weeks in order to produce a similar loss in visceral fat.
This study’s results shouldn’t be surprising if you’ve been following the news about interval training. “Interval what?” you may be saying. So let's learn more.
“Internal training is simply alternating bursts of intense activity with intervals of lighter activity,” the Mayo Clinic reports. Men’s Health added, “Interval training mimics sports - start-and-stop motions with periods of sprinting or close-to-sprinting speeds followed by light jogging or rest. You can use interval training workouts any way you want - running, cycling, swimming, on elliptical trainers, even walking if you alternate a speed walk and slow walk.”
The Mayo Clinic points to four benefits from interval training:
- Burning more calories. “The more vigorously you exercise, the more calories you’ll burn – even if you increase intensity for just a few minutes at a time,” the clinic’s website states.
- Improved aerobic capacity. Interval training helps you improve your cardiovascular fitness, thus giving you the ability to exercise longer and with more intensity.
- Less boredom. Interval training can add variety to an exercise routine through making it more challenging.
- Easy addition to your regular routine. You don’t need any additional equipment. In fact, you can just modify your current routine. For instance, if walking is your form of exercise, you just need to alternate your normal pace with periods of striding faster. “For example, if you’re walking outdoors, you could walk faster between certain mailboxes, trees or other landmarks," the Mayo Clinic noted.
If you’re interested in interval training but have a chronic health condition (or haven’t been exercising regularly), check with your doctor. Also, be careful as you start interval training since you may overuse muscles, tendons or bones. The Mayo Clinic recommends that you start slowly by doing one or at the most two higher intensity intervals during one workout. If you feel any discomfort, slow down your effort. Eventually, your stamina will improve and you’ll be able to continue the internal training at a higher level.