August 13, 2017

This workout burns more fat than running -- and takes less time, too

An introduction to the world of HIIT.

Fitness Cardio
Nighttime running microgen /iStock

Jogging in the city at night.

Though training yourself to run longer distances at a faster place can do wonders for reliving stress, improving cardiovascular health, and possibly even in preventing breast cancer, more and more reports are sharing a common thread: if you really want to burn fat and lose weight, running isn’t the best way to do it.

Without diversifying your practice, regular runners can face some frustrating pitfalls if they're trying to lose weight. As Nick English from Vice puts it, “Running is a crappy way to lose fat and an inferior way to boost cardiovascular health, but it’s somehow become the most popular exercise on Earth after walking.”

So, what should you do instead? Though you may want to hang on to your cardio habits, try to diversify your workouts by introducing HIIT (high-intensity interval training) into the mix. These short workouts average around 10-minute cycles that mix intense workouts like sprinting with more relaxed workouts, like walking or jogging.

“We now have more than 10 years of data showing HIIT yields pretty much the exact same health and fitness benefits as long-term aerobic exercise, and in some groups or populations, it works better than traditional aerobic exercise,” said Todd Astorino, a kinesiology professor California State University, to TIME.

Over the years, several reports have linked interval training with physical and wellness benefits, including improved blood sugar and lowered fat percentage. What's more, a session of HIIT will continue to burn fat and boost energy long after the workout is complete.

Basically, these brief but forceful exertions of energy can have long-lasting effects that are equal or, more often, better than more physically taxing exercises that last far longer.

TIME suggests regular exercisers get into sprint interval training as a foray in HIIT workouts. This would include a few minutes of walking or slow jogging, then 30-second sprinting, then a 4-minute recovery. You would repeat this cycle 4-6 times.

HIIT isn’t just for running paces, however. MyFitnessPal's HIIT beginner's guide offers workout cycles for walking, strength training, kickboxing, and cardio.