Somewhere among all the fitness materials that I look at, a small snippet caught my eye. It said that what people secretly (or maybe not so secretly) really want from an exercise program is to lose fat. Never mind the myriad health benefits, the mental clarity, the increased energy, or the longer, higher quality of life. People want to get rid of excess weight, whether it has crept on slowly or has been there for a long time.
If you look at health and fitness magazines, even just the covers, you will almost always see something about burning fat, getting rid of fat, eating certain things to get rid of fat, the easiest ways to get rid of fat, or the shortest workout that will work for fat loss. It appears that fat loss sells!
On a more specific level, often there are questions about how to lose belly fat, thigh fat, upper arm fat, or back fat. Fat, and the questions that follow, seem to be everywhere!
Lately in the fitness biz, there is a highly visible program that says it is the best for fat loss. It is known as HIIT, or High Intensity Interval Training. Hype would have you believe that this type of training is the only way to go if you want to make strides with fat burning.
HIIT training involves short bursts (30 seconds to 8 minutes) of intense AEROBIC exercise (greater than 90% of your maximal capacity) interspersed with lower intensity exercise (50-60% of your capacity) for varying lengths of time. If you belong to a gym, you may have been exposed to classes that are based on this. In truth, interval training has been around for a long time. It’s just that now they call it HIIT, and there is more research on its effectiveness.
The point from my perspective is that if you understand a few things about intervals, it can help you understand the benefits you are getting from whatever exercise you do.
The questions are: If this works, why does it? Is it “better” than other methods? If not, what IS the best? Now, if you have a hard time caring WHY it works and just want to know IF it does, then bear with me, I’ll make this short.
The REALLY short version is this: If you work out harder, you will get the many benefits of exercise, including fat burning, more quickly. That’s the WHY. Is it “better” because of that?
Yes, if you are trying to get the biggest bang for your buck in the shortest time AND your body is ready for it.
Research shows that when you push yourself with intervals, your body ramps up its systems to respond. AND in between the intervals, your body has more adjustments to make, which uses more energy. It is the intensity and what goes on in between the intervals that make it so efficient.
That does NOT mean that it is the only way to go. High intensity aerobic bouts are good for fat burning, but not everyone can do this safely, or be comfortable with it. Strength training, particularly that which is designed so that rest periods between sets are short, also burns fat. Steady cardio activities such as walking, jogging, swimming, or biking, will also make you fit and burn fat. It just takes somewhat longer.
If it is fat loss that you are wanting, and you don’t care about the other amazing things that fitness can bring you, that’s GREAT! Why? Because when you are burning fat, you ARE getting the health benefits. Your heart gets stronger, glucose tolerance improves, cholesterol and triglycerides improve, high blood pressure can improve, your energy is better, your mood and mental clarity are improved, and your body gets better and better at burning fat as you get more fit. Awesome.
However, just one more thing, the elephant in the room. If you want to lose fat, you need to burn more calories than you take in. Somehow it would appear that people would rather find ANY other solution than this. Maybe there are certain foods that can help, but basically, if you don’t eat fewer calories than you burn, the fat will stay on.
Question: What is it that you want from an exercise program, really? Be honest. Fat loss, look better, whatever. Your perspective is valuable to me and others! Please leave your comment below.
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