Exercising to lose weight is not that much fun. Of course, that’s true of all exercise to some degree – you’re exerting yourself after all – but training to beat your best time, or a rival team, or because it’s a stress reliever, or countless other reasons are all more fun than sweating to slim down.
So it’s no surprise people want to know the best way to lose weight so they can get in, get out and get on with their lives.
Which is why it’s also no surprise that the article “Is interval training the magic bullet for fat loss?” published in the British Journal Of Sports Medicine got a lot of attention. The authors conducted a meta-analysis reviewing 36 studies that included a total of 576 male and 522 female subjects comparing the effects of moderate-intensity continuous training with the super-charged version of cardio known as high-intensity interval training (HIIT), short, sharp bursts of explosive exercise, split up by short rest periods.
Which came out on top for fat loss? Well, they were kind of… the same, which doesn’t make for the greatest of headlines.
The study found that HIIT results in a slightly greater fat mass reduction than moderate continuous exercise, but that was because it’s a more efficient way of burning fat since HIIT sessions are typically shorter. In the study, HIIT sessions averaged 28 minutes, whereas moderate-intensity workouts averaged 38 minutes.
However, due to HIIT’s vast variety of sessions, the researchers found it difficult to describe an archetypal routine, which means that some HIIT routines might not be as effective as others. Plus, the risk of injury from HIIT is higher than moderate training, and you’ll need more rest days between sessions.
To burn fat you really only need to be working at 60% of your max heart rate. Moderate activity will get you in the 55% to 70% range, while HIIT will see you working around the 80% mark. HIIT promotes many other benefits such as increasing your VO2 max, and the authors of this study claimed it may have the effect of reducing hunger post-workout, but you will burn fat regardless so long as you’re hitting the right heart rate zones. So if you’re wondering whether to change up your running routine for the mad world of box jumps, loud music and boutique fitness, all for the purpose of burning fat, all we can say is: jog on.