I’m an avid exerciser. I love it, and I feel sluggish and lazy if I don’t break a sweat most days of the week. And I’ve always thought that the longer I worked out, the better my weight loss results would be. After all, if the key to losing weight is eating less while exercising more, then wouldn’t it be to our advantage to exercise as long as possible?
Well, it turns out, that less might actually be more when it comes to exercising! There are some workouts, that are often referred to as HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training), or “tabata” that promise better results in less time. The premise behind these types of workouts is simple: it’s a short interval of very high intensity exercises, followed by a period of rest. For example, in the boot camp class I take at my gym, we do rounds of 20 seconds of all-out effort for a given exercise, followed by 10 seconds of rest (we do this four times, with eight different exercises). Instead of jogging at a steady pace for 45 minutes or an hour, in a HIIT or tabata workout, you’re constantly changing things up. You go hard, then rest. That rest allows you to push yourself harder than you can in a longer workout. And that “pushing harder” leads to a greater calorie burn, and a higher metabolic rate for the rest of the day. Meaning, you’ll burn more calories just sitting around after a HIIT workout. These workouts will also improve your cardiovascular endurance and they are very effective for building muscles (which we do want to do, ladies!).
And here’s where the “less is more” benefit comes in. Most tabata or HIIT workouts can be effectively done in about 20 minutes (or less!). Just remember, you have to work HARD during those 20 seconds for this to be effective!
And even better news… a study reported in Men’s Fitness magazine compared groups of people who exercised moderately for 30 minutes a day with people who exercised moderately for 60 minutes a day (“moderate exercise” wasn’t defined, but I’d put that at using the elliptical, jogging, bicycling on a flat road or brisk walking). The results were interesting because those who exercised just 30 minutes a day lost more weight over 13 weeks than those who exercised for an hour (7 pounds vs. 5 pounds)!! There are two possible reasons for this. First, when you workout longer, you tend to eat more throughout the day. I know on the days I have long, hard workouts, I cannot stop eating; I’m constantly hungry. I’m not sure if it “undoes” the calories I burned during the workout, but it feels like I’m eating an awful lot. Secondly, the researchers suggested that those who worked out for 60 minutes were more tired, and had less energy throughout the day, so they sat around more. We know that a lot of sitting is really bad, and those who exercised for a half hour had more energy over the rest of the day to just get up and walk around more.
The point is, if you feel like it’s not worth going to the gym if you can’t do an hour, or even 45 minutes, THINK AGAIN! Some exercise is always better than none! So if you want to kick it up a notch and are short on time, try a tabata or HIIT workout. If you’re a new exerciser, don’t feel pressure to do too much. Even 20 minutes of exercise will give you a plethora of benefits!