Keeping Cardio Short

The benefits of regular exercise or physical activity are seemingly endless. Being physically active on a regular basis increases longevity and can help you keep many chronic diseases like heart disease, certain cancers and diabetes at bay. 

In contrast, not leading a physically active lifestyle can be hazardous to your health. But, if you ask most Americans why they exercise, the majority will not say because they want to live longer or decrease their risk for chronic diseases. Instead, the majority will say they want to lose some weight. To lose weight, the usual choice of exercise is riding a stationary bike or using an elliptical machine for long periods of time at a low-intensity. But, if you’re looking to get your “summer body” ready, those long and boring sessions on the stationary bike or elliptical may not be your best choice. 

Let’s face it, there are not enough hours in the day and getting to the gym may not always be at the top of your list. But, the good news is you can do an effective, fat-burning workout in only 20-30 minutes. In fact, several published exercise trials have found high-intensity interval training, or HIIT, to be more productive, in terms of fat loss, than low or moderate-intensity exercise of longer durations. 

For those who are unfamiliar with high-intensity interval training, it involves short intervals, usually 20 to 30 seconds, of a high-intensity activity such as an all-out sprint alternated with periods of rest lasting one to two-minutes. HITT can be performed using the ‘interval’ setting on an elliptical, stationary bike, or treadmill. 

A well-designed 2011 study by the American College of Sports Medicine, placed participants – men and women in their 20s – into two separate groups. The first group performed sprint interval training three times per week for six weeks. The sprint interval training consisted of four to six bouts of all-out 30 second sprints separated by a four-minute recovery bout. The second group performed the standard moderate-intensity exercise for 30 to 60 minutes three times per week for six weeks. At the end of six weeks, the group performing the sprint interval training lost more than twice the body fat than the group performing moderate-intensity exercise. 

What this means is, more isn’t necessarily always better when it comes to exercise. 

However, if you are currently not very active, I would advise against trying high-intensity interval training right away. Instead, start out by walking or jogging to assess your fitness level before jumping into short bouts of high-intensity exercise. It is also important to consult with your doctor prior to trying HIIT. 

While one type of cardio may help burn the fat quicker, your body is thanking you regardless of the type of exercise.