Will High-Intensity Interval Training Increase Weight Loss?

by Lisa Nelson, RD, LN Health Professional

Short bursts of high-intensity interval training may provide a more realistic alternative to more time-consuming forms of exercise when it comes to preventing and managing type 2 diabetes as well as promoting weight loss, according to a paper published in Obesity Reviews.

The study was a meta-analysis, meaning researchers reviewed multiple studies examining the effects of high-intensity interval training (HIIT) on specific health parameters. In this case, 50 studies were included in the research, paying particular attention to insulin resistance, blood glucose, hemoglobin A1c, body weight, and cardiorespiratory fitness.

Researchers found that short bursts of vigorous activity in quick succession to be more effective in terms of how the body uses and stores blood sugar, than longer forms of exercise.** Exercise and weight loss**

A majority of individuals diagnosed with type 2 diabetes are also classified as overweight or obese. Type 2 diabetes impacts your entire body: vision, kidneys, heart, etc. If you have high triglycerides, this is an indicator for greater risk for developing type 2 diabetes.

Treatment plans for type 2 diabetes, high triglycerides, and weight management include diet and physical activity. The effects of exercise on the body’s insulin sensitivity and ability to utilize blood sugar are well-known. The effects of exercise on weight management, however, is debatable.


The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) guidelines for weight loss recommend 200 to 300 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity each week for long-term weight loss. This equals roughly 30 to 45 minutes of activity daily. That might not seem like a significant amount of time, but research shows only five percent of people actually achieve this level of consistent activity. (Consider the TV show, The Biggest Loser, and how many past contestants have regained weight once back in “the real world.")

Due to the challenges connected to lengthy workout recommendations for weight loss, the Obesity Reviews meta-analysis proposes HIIT as a more time-efficient method of exercise that may bring about similar benefits to the standard model of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise. High-intensity interval training often results in improved cardiometabolic health; when it comes to insulin resistance and aerobic fitness, this may be more beneficial than our traditional long-term moderate-to-vigorous activity guidelines.

Maintaining a HIIT routine in the long term might be a more viable option for many people who struggle to find the time to be active.

What counts ahigh-intensity interval training?For this meta-analysis, HIIT was seen as any form of interval training that included high-intensity exercise categorized as "vigorous." (According to the CDC, "for vigorous-intensity physical activity, a person's target heart rate should be 70 to 85 percent of his or her maximum heart rate." Find out how to calculate your own target heart rate and maximum heart rate here.)

Sprint interval training is a well-defined form of HIIT, involving only 3 minutes of activity per session, not including periods of warm-up and cool-down. High-intensity interval training may also be described as aerobic interval training.

Finally: Remember that there are health benefits associated with physical activity even when you do not lose weight.If you are working to lower cholesterol levels, access the free ecourse, “How to Lower Cholesterol in 8 Simple Steps,” at http://lowercholesterolwithlisa.com.


"Target Heart Rate and Estimated Maximum Heart Rate"

Lisa Nelson is a dietitian/nutritionist with a genetic predisposition for high cholesterol and heart disease. She guides clients to lower cholesterol and blood pressure levels through practical diet and lifestyle changes. Learn more and sign up to receive How to Make Heart Healthy Changes into Lifelong Habits at http://lisanelsonrd.com.

Lisa Nelson, RD, LN
Meet Our Writer
Lisa Nelson, RD, LN

Lisa Nelson RD, a registered dietitian since 1999, provides step-by-step guidance to lower cholesterol and lower blood pressure, so you can live life and enjoy your family for years to come. Lisa's passion for health comes from her own family history of heart disease, so she doesn't dispense trendy treatments; Lisa practices what she teaches in her own daily life. Because her own health is the foundation of her expertise, you can trust that Lisa will make it truly possible for you to see dramatic changes in your health, without unrealistic fads or impossibly difficult techniques.