Short bursts of high-intensity exercise ‘aid weight loss’

An athlete takes part in a sprinting masterclass during the Sainsbury's 2015 School Games at the Manchester Regional Arena.
An athlete takes part in a sprinting masterclass during the Sainsbury's 2015 School Games at the Manchester Regional Arena.

Short bursts of high intensity exercise are better for weight loss than longer sessions in the gym, research suggests.

Interval training – which involves alternating high-intensity and low-intensity effort – sheds more pounds than a workout that is of the same moderate intensity throughout, experts found.

Fast sprinting seemed to have the most profound effect on weight loss, although all high-intensity workouts were good, according to the study published online by the British Journal of Sports Medicine.

People wanting to lose weight are often advised to spend an hour or more exercising each day.

But the researchers said few people find the time, so they looked at 36 existing studies on interval training, involving 1,012 people.

The studies included high-intensity interval training (HIIT) with various exercises, and sprint interval training, which includes running, jogging, speed walking and cycling.

The results showed that both interval training and a continuous workout reduced overall weight and percentage body fat.

While both approaches helped reduce percentage body fat to the same extent, interval training was better for shedding pounds.

Interval training provided a 29% bigger reduction in weight overall, by 1.58kg (3.5lb) compared with 1.13kg (2.5lb).

The experts, from universities in Brazil and the School of Sport, Health and Social Sciences in Hampshire, said: “Interval training is an attractive alternative to address overweight and obesity given its potential to offer benefits similar to moderate-intensity continuous training while requiring less time.”

But they said people should take care as interval training “might increase the risk of injury and impose higher cardiovascular stress”.

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