Sprints Best for Fat Loss?

by Ryan Halvorson on Sep 21, 2012

Making News

Traditionally, exercisers have been told that in order to burn fat, they must exercise in the “fat-burning zone,” or at about 60%–70% of heart rate maximum. However, a recent study in the Journal of Obesity (2012; doi: 10.1155/2012/480467) finds that to optimize fat loss, exercisers must raise their heart rate to levels even higher than that.

The 12-week study included 46 previously inactive, overweight men aged about 25 years. The men were separated into an exercise group and a nonexercise control group. Each participant was tested for resting metabolic rate, body composition and insulin levels. The exercise group met three times per week, during which time the members used indoor bicycles to perform 20 minutes of high-intensity interval exercise (HIIE) training. They were instructed to sprint for 8 seconds, followed by a 12-second recovery, throughout the 20 minutes. As the authors described, “The HIIE workload was set at 80%–90% of each subject’s heart rate peak at a cadence between 120 and 130 revolutions per minute (rpm) and recovery was set at a cadence of 40 rpm.” The participants also completed a 5-minute warm-up and a 5-minute cool-down.

By the end of the study, the exercise group’s absolute and relative VO2 peaks had improved significantly. Total body mass was reduced by 3.3 pounds, and fat mass had decreased by 4.4 pounds. The men also noticed “significant” reductions in abdominal (0.3 pounds) and trunk (3.1 pounds) fat. Interestingly, body mass and body mass index changed very little until after 9 weeks.

“As this HIIE program required minimal time commitment, it has implications regarding subject compliance with exercise interventions,” the researchers suggested. “Thus, physical activity prescriptions [that] require the least effort, while still producing adequate reductions in subcutaneous and visceral fat, are likely to be optimal—and HIIE would seem to fall under this category, as a subject’s total commitment was 60 minutes per week.”

IDEA Fitness Journal, Volume 9, Issue 10

© 2012 by IDEA Health & Fitness Inc. All rights reserved. Reproduction without permission is strictly prohibited.

About the Author

Ryan Halvorson

Ryan Halvorson IDEA Author/Presenter

Ryan Halvorson is the associate editor for IDEA Health & Fitness Association; a Performance Specialist at Bird Rock Fit; a Master Instructor for Metabolic Effect and the creator of www.RYAN'Sworkouts....

1 Comment

  • Log In to Comment
  • Rena Sered

    This study could've been more helpful if it compared HIIE to exercising in the "fat-burning zone". Sprinting 8 seconds 60 times in 20 minutes 3 times a week seems extreme. How does it compare with walking or biking at training zone heart rate for 30 minutes 3 times a week? I think the HIIE training suggested by this study would be a hard sell to my clients unless it showed significant benefits compared to steady state cardio workouts.
    Commented Nov 07, 2012

Trending Articles

20 IDEA World-Renowned Presenters Share Advice on Success and Happiness

We asked some of this year’s most influential and motivating IDEA World Fitness Convention™ presenters to share the single piece of advice they would give another fitness/health pro to hel...

Smooth Move: Creative Additions to Consider for Smoothies

When looking for a quick breakfast or post-workout nourishment, almost nothing beats a smoothie. Whirl in the right ingredients and the blen...

Mindful Walking

Walking can be more than just moving physically from one location to another. It can be a metaphor for your larger life journey. Things you&...

Nuts and Peanuts Reduce Cardiovascular Risk and Prolong Lifespan

While there have been numerous studies in recent years touting the health benefits of nuts and peanuts, new research published online March ...

Cut Risk of Alzheimer’s with MIND Diet

Conservative adherence to a new diet, appropriately known by the acronym MIND, could significantly lower a person’s risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease, according to a paper published o...

Yes, You CAN Develop Better Eating Habits

Analogous to laying out your exercise gear so it’s the first visual reminder you have of your commitment to exercise each day, imagine...

7 Ways to Help a Client Boost Adherence

Once a client has decided to make nutritional changes to support weight loss, you can play a key role in developing an action plan that is m...

Full-Body “Farmhand Fitness”

Several years ago, at the IDEA World Fitness Convention™ session, presenter Michol Dalcourt remarked that young athletes from rural ar...

Recipe for Health: Picadillo-Stuffed Peppers

If you don’t believe that authentic Mexican cookery is “whole” and healthy, you need to take a deep dive into Mexico: The Cookbook (Phaidon 2014), the first truly comprehensive bible...

Treadmill Performance and Mortality Link

nterested in predicting how long you’ll live? Hop on the treadmill. That’s according to researchers from the Johns Hopkins Unive...