Perform high-intensity intervals to lose fat and improve conditioning, while saving time. Research shows that high-intensity sprints are the only form of conditioning to produce significant weight loss. Various high-intensity protocols have been proven effective for fat loss, and this mode of training is preferred over aerobic training. A new study in the European Journal of Applied Physiology provides more evidence for using high-intensity interval training (HIT) to get the greatest results for your effort.
This new study compared a HIT program with steady-state aerobic training on pulmonary lung capacity and function. Physically active, untrained individuals were split into an aerobic training group and a HIT training group. Training was performed on a cycle ergometer three times a week for four weeks. The aerobic protocol was for 45 minutes at a steady state of 60 to 70 percent of maximal, and took 50 minutes total with warm-up. The HIT protocol included five one-minute sprint intervals with three-minute recovery at 90 percent of maximal, and took 23 minutes total with warm-up.
Both groups improved maximal oxygen uptake similarly, while the HIT group had significantly greater improvements in pulmonary lung capacity than the aerobic group. Additionally, in a five-mile time trial the HIT group improved more over pre-training values than the aerobic group. Better pulmonary lung capacity means you have better conditioning or “wind.” Improving it will help you perform better at all sports that require high-intensity activity including basketball, football, hockey, and soccer, and you’ll be able to climb stairs and hike uphill in the mountains without getting out of breath.
In addition, although not statistically significant, the HIT group lost an average of half a kilo of body mass and decreased waist circumference by half a cm, whereas the aerobic group had no change in body mass and increased waist circumference by .7 cm. Based on evidence from previous studies, a more robust change in body composition would likely occur in the HIT group if the training program was of longer duration. More intense sprint intervals have also proven to induce more fat loss.
For example, a previous study that compared the effect of high-intensity exercise (60 sprints of 8 seconds each, 12 seconds rest) with aerobic exercise (60 percent of maximal oxygen uptake for 40 minutes) found that HIT resulted in significant decreases in overall fat mass, while the aerobic exercise group had a fat gain of 0.44 kg on average. The HIT group also had a significant 9.5 percent decrease in visceral belly fat, whereas the aerobic group had a non-significant increase of 0.2 kg or 10.5 percent. Of related interest is that the HIT group decreased fasting insulin significantly more than the aerobic group (31 versus 9 percent).
High-intensity sprints are so effective for fat loss because they produce more muscle-building, fat-burning hormones such as growth hormone. Plus they support insulin health more than aerobic protocols. Not only does HIT yield better results, but interval protocols tend to take less time, and many trainees find HIT to be less boring.
Along with improving pulmonary lung capacity, HIT has been proven effective for lowering cholesterol and improving cardiovascular health. With all this evidence, it’s a wonder anyone is still doing aerobic training unless they love it!
If you want to lose fat and would like to learn more about the benefits of HIT over aerobic training, check out the article, Belly Fat? Lose It
Trapp, E., Chisholm, D., et al. The Effects of High-Intensity Intermittent Exercise Training and Fat Loss and Fasting Insulin Levels of Young Women. International Journal of Obesity. 2008. 32(4), 684-691.
Kosola, J., Ahotupa, M., et al. Good Aerobic or Muscular Fitness Prevents Overweight Men from Elevated Oxidized LDL. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise. September 2011. Published Ahead of Print.
Dunham, C., Harms, C. Effects of High-Intensity Interval Training on Pulmonary Function. European Journal of Applied Physiology. 2011. Published Ahead of Print.