Who would lose more fat?
- The person who decided to jog or do some other form of longer duration cardio for 1 hour, 7 days a week?
- The person who did sprint training on a stationary bike for only 1 hour per week (divided into 3 twenty-minute sessions)?
It's sort of a trick question because the answer, according to studies, is that both would lose the same amount of body fat.
Australian scientists found that sprint work on a stationary bicycle for an hour a week was as effective for fat loss as jogging for seven hours a week. The study recruited chubby guys in their 20's and had them do short, high-intensity cycle sprints like this:
- Sprint (peddle really fast) for 8 seconds
- Recover (slow down) for 12 seconds
- Repeat for 20 minutes
- Do the workout 3 times per week for 12 weeks
The average results, without a change in diet, were:
- 4 pounds of abdominal fat lost
- Some muscle mass gained (in their legs obviously)
- Visceral fat around the organs reduced by 17 percent
That's about the same results joggers experience according to related studies, but it takes an extra six hours per week AND 14 weeks instead of 12. And of course the joggers experience no gains in muscle mass and probably experience muscle loss over time because, well, that's what jogging does.
Now, four pounds doesn't seem like much, but keep in mind these were people who weren't active in any other way and they were instructed not to change their diets. Imagine what some added weight training and healthier eating would've done.
This isn't a surprise really. The "kick ass, rest a little, kick additional ass" method (high intensity intermittent exercise or HIIE) always works, but it's nice to see it studied.
Want to adopt a plan like this? You could simply follow the same workouts given to the study participants, but there's really no need to sweat the details. Pick any exercise machine, go fast for a while, back off and catch your breath, go fast again, repeat for 20 minutes. Many work/rest ratios would do the trick. No machine? Just go outside and alternate fast runs with walks.
- Heydari M et al. The Effect of High-Intensity Intermittent Exercise on Body Composition of Overweight Young Males. J Obes. 2012;2012:480467. PubMed.