If you’re ending 2008 pretty much at the same fitness level as you began the year and can’t lose weight, you’ll have the benefit of some new understanding about weight loss as you re-set those goals for 2009.
During the year just past there was some solid research about exercise that tossed out the notion of those long, grueling workouts as the way to see weight loss results.
Instead we learned that intense interval training is very beneficial for losing weight. Research shows that it’s the intensity of the workout that matters when it comes to subcutaneous weight loss, not the length of time the workout lasts. Still the myths persist that workouts need to be long, single intensity sessions to be effective.
Beyond helping with weight loss by burning calories, interval training improves cardiovascular fitness and also speeds your metabolism. The reason the shorter intervals seem to work is that your body needs fuel (calories) to do anything and keep your muscles alive and healthy.
When you do endurance cardio workouts, like long runs for example, the body ends up turning to the muscle tissue to fuel the activity. That’s not what you want. Since metabolism is mostly based on lean muscle mass, long workouts reduce that, and defeats the purpose of all that effort.
Of course to be effective the training must be intense. No stretching and leisurely walking. The activity must make you sweat, push your limits of endurance and strength. There are two levels of interval training, and beginners should stick with a program that calls for working out at a greater intensity for 2-5 minutes, then going back to a comfortable stage for 2-5 minutes.
Interval training also pushes your metabolic rate up, not just during the workout, but for as much as 36 hours afterward. You may lose, like some study subjects in a comparison of 30 vs. 60 minute workouts, three times the weight in half the time. Now that’s results!
Before you start any exercise program, talk with your own doctor (especially if you’re over 40 or have any chronic health issues) to be sure being active is right for you. Once you get the all clear, you can design your own interval workout pretty easily.
Start with a solid ten minute warm up. After this, increase the intensity of your activity so that it feels harder. Keep going at that intensity for a full minute or two, then slow down (working up to the 2-5 minute period of intensity) and follow this with a 2-5 minute lower intensity session to recover.
Repeat this pattern for 30 to 40 minutes, then finish with a 5 minute cool down. You don’t want to sprint for one minute then collapse for two, instead aim for high activity that’s moderately difficult and a low interval that is moderately easy.
You can do this type of training with just about any sport. Running. Cycling. Swimming. Weight training. Whatever you like. If you’re a total novice, a session with a professional trainer at a local gym or health club can help you develop an interval training program that’s both safe and effective. You’ll soon change ‘I can’t lose weight’ into ‘I can lose weight’.