Want an exercise routine that’s the most likely to help you shed those pounds? The formula is as complex as this: pick the one you will keep doing. (Enjoying exercise is more than half the battle.)
However, if you want a scientific recommendation, the answer is … It depends.
Want to spend the least time for the most significant effect?
Experts like Alexis Canaves, an exercise physiologist, say you can’t miss with high-intensity interval training or HIIT. Canaves is the supervisor of Wellness Training at the UHealth Fitness and Wellness Center.
“HIIT can be done with almost any type of exercise, such as jogging, biking, or swimming,” she says. “You rotate between short bursts of high-intensity activity – for example, running on a treadmill or outside faster for 30 seconds – followed by a longer period, about a minute and a half, jogging or walking at a less intense level. “You would repeat the pattern with rest when needed for short moments.”
How does it work better than walking or running at the same pace?
“During the high-intensity phase, you are creating a greater need for oxygen in your body,” says Canaves. “It’s almost like creating an oxygen deficit. Then, during the less intense period, your body has time to recover. It uses more oxygen than it normally would to do that. HIIT workouts will burn more fat and calories in less time than if you went at the same pace or intensity for the whole workout.”
Canaves cautions those new to HIIT workouts to start with just one or two days per week as part of their routine. This will allow the body to recover from the higher intensity activity. Exercisers should plan to supplement the HIIT with lower intensity cardio and flexibility training on days in between HIIT workouts.
“Keep the goal in mind to remain active and understand that some muscle soreness is part of the process,” she says.
Build muscle to burn fat: resistance training
Another road to faster weight loss is adding strength training to your routine. This does not mean you have to become a power weightlifter. Also known as resistance training, it can be achieved in the comfort of your own home, without machines, iron plates, or loud grunting (unless you want to).
“Building muscle increases the body’s at-rest metabolic rate,” says Canaves. “By doing some basic strength training twice a week, it means that even if you were eating the same amount of food, you would lose more weight. Our bodies burn calories when we are sitting at a desk typing on a computer, or watching TV, or sleeping. The more toned your muscles, the more calories you will use up.”
She says that time-proven strength training exercises include planks, climbing stairs or hills, squats (in any form), and push-ups. In these examples, one uses his or her own body weight as the resistance. Strength training also helps increase our bone and heart health.
Whether high-intensity aerobic workouts or resistance training, what is important is making it part of a routine and also doing 8-10 intervals per session. And by all means, make it fun.
“Don’t try to take on a new activity you have zero interest in,” says Canaves. “Rotate the type of exercises to keep it fresh. Invite a buddy to be part of your routine. By combining cardio training with simple strength training in a consistent schedule with healthy eating and adequate sleep, you can and will lose belly fat – provided you don’t celebrate with an ice cream sundae after each workout.”
Are you seeking additional tips and advice? Visit the UHealth Fitness and Wellness Center’s online resources today then get started on your path to better health.
John Senall is a contributing writer for UMiami Health News. He is a former hospital and comprehensive cancer center communications director.