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Brief Periods of Intense Exercise May Be Key to Weight Loss

Brief Periods of Intense Exercise May Be Key to Weight LossIf you’re finding that despite your dedication, your exercise routine isn’t bringing about the desired weight loss, a new study may have the answer for you. It found that exercising at an intense pace for brief intervals, in between slower-paced periods, can help reduce weight and prevent weight gain better than longer, moderately paced workouts.

The University of Utah study, published in Sept., 2013 in the American Journal of Health Promotion, found that high-intensity activity was associated with a lower risk for obesity, even when the faster bouts were less than 10 minutes in duration. Examples would be incorporating 30-second high-intensity intervals in between slower activity during a workout; or taking flights of stairs at a fluctuating brisk/slower pace, instead of using the elevator; or incorporating spurts of speed-walking (or sprinting) in between slower walking when you walk to the store.

This is great news for folks whose regular exercise regimen isn’t producing the desired weight loss, or for people who have limited time to exercise.

Being that fewer than five percent of American adults get the weekly amount of exercise recommended by the Department of Health and Human Services (150 minutes a week), study lead author Dr. Jessie Fan encourages people to start taking more opportunities to engage in brief periods of intense exercise during the day, since every minute of high-energy activity counts. The study found that each minute of daily high-intensity movement lowered the risk of obesity by 5 percent for women and by 2 percent for men.

Earlier studies had found similar results. A study from the University of New South Wales in Australia had 18 women do 20 minutes of interval training on a stationary bike — eight-second sprints, then 12 seconds of slower-paced movement, throughout the 20 minutes, 3 times a week. The participants lost an average of 5.5 lbs. over 15 weeks, without dieting. A comparison group, which did 40 minutes of moderate cycling 3 days a week, gained one pound of fat over the same period.

And adding short, intense intervals to your workout may also get you fit faster. Researchers at McMaster University in Ontario did a study where participants’ fitness gains were measured. Eight subjects who included 4 to 6 30-second sprints in a 20- to 30-minute cycling workout were compared to 8 volunteers who pedaled at a slower pace for 90 to 120 minutes. After two weeks, the group that did the high-intensity intervals was found to be as fit as those who had worked out 3 to 4 times as long.

After an interval workout, a person’s metabolism can stay elevated for an entire day. This can mean that you’ll burn 2 to 3 times the number of calories that you would expect with a moderate-intensity workout. But more than weight control, the benefits of regular, committed exercise decrease the risk for heart disease, type 2 diabetes and even bone fractures; you will also have more energy, improve your psychological feeling of well-being, and sleep better.

A typical interval-training session may start with a warm-up of 2 to 3 minutes, followed by a first intense interval of 30 seconds. If something strenuous like running or jumping quick rope seems too daunting at first, try speed-walking or slow rope-jumping for 30 seconds. Then, recover at a slower pace of motion for one and a half to two minutes. Repeat sequence for a total of 8 high-intensity intervals. Cool down at the end with 2 to 3 minutes of slower activity that includes plenty of stretching exercises. If you are unaccustomed to high-intensity exercise, start with fewer, more moderate intervals at first. And of course, get your doctor’s okay before you start a new or different exercise regime.

By Jamells Andrews

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