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Is HIIT the best way to exercise for weight loss?

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
HITT exercise and weight loss

There is one type of exercise that is touted to help you with weight loss. The exercise is HIIT or high intensity intermittent training that has become popular, but probably is misunderstood when it comes losing weight.


HIIT or high intensity intermittent training is not new. But repeated studies have shown you can lose weight more quickly by exercising just a bit harder than you might be used to. The good news is you don't have to beat yourself up doing it.

Why HIIT might help you lose more weight

The reason HIIT is said to works so well for weight loss has to do with claims that it boosts excess post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC). What happens during the recovery period of exercise is important for weight loss and has garnered much scientific attention.

But it isn't about oxygen consumption or the after burn. It's always about intensity. Aerobic exercise is simply, repeatedly show to be the best for sustained weight loss. So HIIT will help you lose more weight than lower levels of exercise.

Does HIIT really work best for weight loss?

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The short and sweet answer is yes and no.

There is no question that higher intensity exercise burns more calories. Studies comparing what happens in the "burn phase" of exercise have show HIIT doesn't change EPOC enough to suggest it is better than a steady tempo cardio workout,

It's also not a good idea to push for HIIT because not everyone can do it. People who are already overweight or just beginning a diet and exercise program would have difficulty.

According to the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NCSA), weight loss is best achieved by long-term, sustained physical activity, performed at a comfortable level that you can enjoy.

Claims that HIIT exercises cause more fat burning after exercise are not scientifically supported. Instead, the benefits probably come from increased insulin sensitivity. Whether high intensity interval training works for you may be based on your genes.

If you're thinking you should definitely be doing HIIT exercises for weight loss you can relax. Increasing your exercise intensity slowly and steadily as you feel comfortable is just fine. Just make sure you are getting your heart rate up and speak with your doctor before beginning any exercise program.

Updated: 2/21/2016