It can take six hours or more of weekly cardio to make a dent in your body weight. Who has time for that? But mixing high-intensity intervals into your treadmill routine can speed up weight loss and decrease your workout time, freeing you up to shop for cute new clothes to show off your svelte new body.
Exercise, Weight Loss and Health
Losing weight boils down to simple math. When calories expended exceed calories consumed, you lose weight because your body taps into your fat stores to meet your energy needs. While you can lose weight without exercise by just cutting back on your daily calories, your energy levels may take a nose dive. When you reduce your daily consumption, your metabolism slows down to a snail's pace, slowing your rate of weight loss. Exercise helps you maintain a high metabolism that speeds up weight loss while enhancing your overall health. A 2012 study of overweight women found that interval training significantly reduced their risk of metabolic disease.
High-Intensity Interval Training
High-intensity interval training, or HIIT, intersperses intense bouts of all-out effort into your steady-state endurance workout. There is no exact prescription for HIIT, but you can begin with three minutes of walking or running at your normal pace, then hit the speed button and walk or run at an all-out effort for one minute, giving you a three-to-one ratio. Repeat that cycle five to seven times. You can manipulate the ratio as you become more fit, making the slower intervals shorter and the high-intensity intervals longer. Integrate the incline feature on your treadmill to challenge yourself even further. Be sure to include a three-minute warm-up and a gradual cool-down.
HIIT and Weight Loss
The reason HIIT is effective is that you're challenging your body, forcing it to work at a higher intensity than normal. Not only do you burn more calories during the workout, but your metabolism stays elevated for several hours afterward, creating a negative energy balance that causes you to lose weight. In the bargain, your fitness level improves, further increasing your metabolism and turning your body into a 24/7 fat-burning machine. How much weight you lose is up to you. One pound of fat is 3,500 calories. If you burn 300 calories at the gym and reduce your daily food intake by 400 calories, you will lose a pound every five days. Remember, it's just math. If you want to lose weight faster, just exercise longer, harder or more frequently, and eat less.
Other Lifestyle Factors
There is a common adage among athletes and fitness buffs that says you can't out-train a bad diet. If you're sabotaging your workout by indulging in unhealthy food, your weight-loss plan will suffer. Eating whole natural fruits and vegetables, organic meats and wild-caught fish will give you the energy and nutrients you need without compromising your waistline. To keep your engine running clean, avoid chemical-laden processed and genetically engineered foods, and shun all soft drinks and juices. Drink plenty of pure filtered water. Add a lemon wedge for flavor, and to keep your colon squeaky clean.
- ACSM's Health and Fitness Journal: High Intensity Circuit Training Using Body Weight
- IDEA Health and Fitness Association: HIIT vs. Continuous Endurance Training
- Mayo Clinic: Which is better for Weight Loss: Cutting Calories or Increasing Exercise
- Revista Medica de Chile: Effect of Sprint Interval Training and Resistance Exercise on Metabolic Markers in Overweight Women
Michelle Matte is an accomplished fitness professional who holds certifications in personal training, pilates, yoga, group exercise and senior fitness. She has developed curricula for personal trainers and group exercise instructors for an international education provider. In her spare time, Matte writes fiction and blogs.