Monday, October 15, 2012
Over the years, I've experimented with intense exercise for short periods and low intensity for long periods for weight loss. 30 minutes 'jogging' on the elliptical versus 1 or 2 hours cycling, for example. Which one was better?
In the beginning when I first started, it was either. Just getting up and doing anything seemed to work. But I eventually reached diminishing returns.
These days, a mix of both is ideal. From my observation, though, I'm going to say low intensity exercise for longer time works better for losing fat.
There's a lot of controversy about the so called 'fat burning zone'. Exercising at low intensity burns a higher percentage of fat than high intensity. But high intensity burns more calories.
From my perspective, HI helps more in maintenance as the calories burned will be less likely to persist as stored fat. But when weight loss is the goal, LI is ideal for trimming off stored fat.
However, LI exercise requires more time invested, which is prohibitive for many people with jobs and families to juggle. Higher intensity exercise can reap benefit in 30 minutes. Studies consistently show that the true fat burning efficiency from low intensity exercise doesn't kick in until at least a hour. This seems to explain why my 4 hour day hikes on the weekends used to shred fat at a superior rate to my weekday gym rat schedule.
Spark and most dietary opinions believe that short but high intensity exercise is just as good as long and low intensity. There are countless articles about the 'fat burning zone' myth. If you are short on time, definitely some exercise is better than none, and I am certainly a fan of HIIT. However, my personal opinion is to not completely dismiss the low intensity exercises. Just make sure to do them for a longer period of time. A two hour walk on the beach or at the park with the dog or kids may just be the trick to boost a weight loss stall.
But as I've repeatedly stressed, the best exercise still won't reap reward without a good diet to go with it.