Short sharp bursts of intense exercise are the best way to lose weight.

OK, so to those of us in the fitness industry and to many of you out there who take your fitness seriously and keep abreast of the subject, this is probably not much of a revelation.

Why the big news?

Interval training best for weight loss is hardly big news! Perhaps so, but it does now come with the detailed study, testing and conclusion of the Federal University of Goias, Brazil and was announced in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, and that kind of credibility and authenticity is always worth noting.

The study

The university tested 576 men and 522 women covering a wide range of fitness levels. Participants were put through short, sharp bursts of activity including boxing, cycling, swimming and running. These activities were then interspersed with brief periods of rest before going again.

This has long been known as interval training, in fact HIIT (high intensity interval training) workouts and the likes of Tabata have become very popular around the world in recent years.

These are compared to the effects of partaking in longer continuous exercise of moderate intensity. These lasted for 30-45 minutes and each person in the study stuck to their programme for at least four weeks.

The results?

There was an average weight loss of 1.58kg (3.48lbs) amongst the interval trainers, but only 1.13kg (2.49lbs) in the longer form exercisers.

These were achieved after one month. Of course if you extrapolate that out over just three months, at the same rate, then you have 4.74kg (10.4lbs) against 3.39kg (7.4lbs).


Dr. Vollaard of Stirling University expressed some surprise at the findings as he pointed out that most people burn more calories over longer exercise. But he explained why short intensive exercise might win out over longer moderate workouts.

“There are two possible explanations. Firstly HIIT may lead to greater energy expenditure after exercise. Metabolism may be increased for up to a day after an HIIT session.

“Secondly, after an HIIT session you may be less hungry”.

He added, “In our research we have shown that appetite hormones are indeed affected. It is however not easy to study whether energy intake is reduced as a result of this in the longer term when following a HIIT routine. So at the moment we are still unsure exactly what the reason is”.

A personal experience

A BBC documentary maker made a film called ‘The Truth About Exercise’ and experienced significant results of his own. Michael Mosley said, “I tested three lots of 20-second high intensity workouts on an exercise bike three times a week. My insulin sensitivity improved by 24%”.

He added that, “In the programme we again saw very impressive results with younger unfit people. The theory with Hiit seems to be that it suppresses your appetite and targets the visceral fat in your gut”.

The Brazilian university’s study appeared to show that sprint interval training in particular, was effective for weight loss. However they also stated that they were not trying to identify a specific exercise discipline and the use of other intense activities around sprinting meant this could not be an absolute conclusion.

However what does seem to be increasingly certain is that short, sharp, intensive exercise, punctuated by short periods of rest before repeat, is certainly a supremely effective way to shed weight.

So is interval training best for weight loss?

In what is hardly a bombshell announcement, the answer very much appears to be “Yes”.

Whether you thought you knew it before or not, it’s nice to have further confirmation on the whole interval training best for weight loss subject!

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