Just how much time to exercise do you need to shift weight and to recondition your metabolism?
The Centre for Disease Control in the USA recommends a minimum of 150 minutes of moderate intensity cardio exercise per week for 18 – 64 year old adults in its Physical
Activity Guidelines for Americans1. On top of that, to the CDC’s credit, they also recommend at least 2 sessions per week of ‘muscle strengthening’ exercise. And that’s if you are not overweight.
This recommendation ups to 300 minutes+ of cardio and then more resistance training if you want to lose fat. That’s 5 hours a week of cardio and likely another 3 or 3 of resistance training. Say 8 hours a week. Out of the 168 hours a week that we have available to us 8 hours doesn’t seem like a lot – but let’s look a little more closely.
- Sleep (@ 8 Hours per night) = 56 hours
- Food preparation, eating & clean up = 15 hours
- Hourly commute to work = 10 hours
- Work itself = 45 hours (8 hours work + 1 Hour lunch & breaks per day, 5 days)
- Showering, laundry, household chores = 16 hours
- Exercise (as per the CDC) = 8 hours
That leaves 18 hours a week for shopping, TV, recreation, reading, loving etc etc or a little over 2.5 hours a day.
Really for most of us finding 8 hours a week just for exercise (this does not mean sport or recreation just fat loss focussed, fitness maintaining exercise) is not really feasible for the average adult with adult responsibilities.
In a word the CDC’s recommendations are not real life practical.
Now if fat loss is an imperative in your life, if it is deeply held goal then you will find the time – but such an effort is unlikely to become a regular habit for most of us. We’ll do it short term to drop fat for an event like a wedding or a reunion, but sustaining this type of effort is just not realistic for most of us.
And let’s be honest if we were to follow these guidelines who wants to spend 5 or so hours a week on an exercise bike, stair climber, treadmill or elliptical trainer?
Just ain’t going to happen, no where no how.
To make matters even worse it appears that everything we have been told for years about exercising especially for fat loss has been wrong.
It is not about duration, nor about finding some mythical fat burning zone – studies from conservative sources like Harvard University indicate that the key to effective exercise for fat loss and overall health is all about intensity.
Here are some guidelines for judging your level of intensity using a PRE(perceived rate of
- Level 1 = Warm-Up or Slow Pace
- Level 2 = Medium (you can talk easily
- Level 3 = Medium-High (you can still talk)
- Level 4 = High (Talking is in short bursts
- Level 5 = Hard as you can go (Talking is not possible)
These levels are based on your current level of personal condition.
The available data shows that the long, slow, constant-speed aerobics that we’ve all been inculcated to believe are so good for us is exactly the wrong thing for us to be doing.
In fact I’d go as far as to say doing continuous cardio is a waste of time.
Long slow constant cardio doesn’t get your metabolism running faster, nor does it build your fat burning capability or even really condition your cardiovascular and respiratory systems. It does increase cortisol release – which is not a good thing as high cortisol is associated with belly fat accumulation.
Look I’ve posted before on the benefits to your metabolism (both reconditioning and improving), your fat loss and your overall health of HIIT (high intensity interval training).
There has been a heap of research showing that high intensity interval training is better than traditional, long, slow aerobics if you want to:
- Recondition your metabolism
- protect your heart
- burn body fat
- build lean muscle
- boost your overall metabolism
- reduce insulin resistance
- decrease cortisol levels
- increase levels of HGH
- increase your energy levels
- improve your sleep patterns
- Not waste time
You can get faster results in a shorter time period using HIIT. And that was where we
came in – 8 hours a week of exercise for so-so results when you could do HIIT style exercise for 12 – 20 minutes three times a week, add in a couple of 30 – 45 minute resistance training sessions and you you’ve got more time and better results. (in fact if you combined the 2 into what is called metabolic resistance training then you’d get all the benefits in under 80 minutes a week! – more on MT and how to design a program next week)
This is just not me speaking – here are some results from recent studies:
Harvard School of Public Health: A study of over 7,000 people found that the more intense the exertion, the lower the risk of heart disease.
Physical Activity Sciences Laboratory, Laval University, Ste-Foy, Quebec, Canada: Compared to treadmills and hour-long aerobics classes, HIIT helps you burn fat more efficiently and quickly.
Department of Human Health and Nutritional Sciences, University of Guelph, Guelph, Ontario, Canada: Moderately active women (not on their backside all day but not running marathons either…) lost an impressive amount of fat doing just two weeks of HIIT.
School of Engineering and Physical Sciences, Heriot-Watt University Edinburgh, Scotland, UK: Young males who did HIIT / Burst Training substantially reduced their risk for type 2 diabetes.
Department of Kinesiology, McMaster University, Hamilton, Canada: For people with type 2 diabetes, HIIT Training can improve blood sugar levels and reduce risks for diabetes-related complications.
The next level of HIT is a thing called ‘Burst Training.’ Regular HIIT requires intense effort for fairly short periods of time interspersed with short rest periods. Now I have to go on record here and say that I think that Burst training is largely a marketing term– if you are
hitting high levels of exertion in your HIIT training then you are already ‘Bursting.’
Why this term has come about is because I think that many people say they are doing HIIT when they are really only doing timed exercise. It’s Tabatas – most folk do 20 seconds on and 10 seconds off for 4 minutes and say they’ve done a Tabata.
Unless you worked so hard during those 4 minutes that you are lying on your back sucking air then you have NOT done Tabatas – you’ve done timed interval exercise which is nowhere near as challenging or stressful. Nor does it deliver the health benefits we are after in as short a period of time as true HIIT or Tabatas.
Make no mistake unless you are going ‘balls to the wall’ for short periods of time followed by short periods of rest then you are NOT performing HIIT or Burst training. You’re working out, likely getting some benefit but far less than if you go flat out.
Burst training involves short (20 – 60 second maximum) bursts at such a high intensity that the created oxygen demand is higher than your body can supply.
Think about doing sand dune sprints, prowler sprint pushes or where Rocky runs the Philadelphia stairs…
This ‘over demand’ for oxygen creates a high level of metabolic “stress” in your body that it depletes your glycogen stores which requires your body to not only work harder to repay this ‘oxygen debt’ but means that it has to burn more fat.
The Health benefits of “burst training” are not dissimilar to that of HIIT and include…
- Increased fat burning
- Increased lean muscle mass
- Improved cardiovascular health
- Combined aerobic and anaerobic activity
- Increased “feel-good” beta-endorphins
- Increased human growth hormone (HGH)
- Increased energy
- Improved athletic performance
- Reduced inflammation
- Increased EPOC
If you really want to go for it then move to what is called “Threshold” intervals. These are insanely hard bursts of intense exercise that, unlike the shorter ‘burst’ style, last anywhere from 65 seconds all the way up to 2 or sometimes 3 minutes.
Now that is a HIIT and that will burn fat & recondition your metabolism like little else!
They are also so demanding physically & mentally that you can’t do this oftenwhich
means this training style should only be used on those days when you are feeling in touch with the Universe when a flow state is nigh and you want to up the ante a bit.
Few of us mortals can train this way on a regular basis – but if you can incorporate them once a week then:
1. Research shows that performing “Threshold” intervals is one of the best ways to accelerate glycogen depletion (which = faster fat loss).
2. Test subjects who regularly performed threshold intervals burned more fat when they performed steady state or higher intensity intervals.
In other words, using the Threshold system develops your metabolism where it becomes more adept at burning fat in less time that either HIIT or Burst style training.
So forget what the politically correct exercise guidelines are – get HIITing, Bursting or jump over your Threshold!! This is how you can recondition your metabolism in record time, get leaner, get healthier and LBN.
See you next week – don’t forget to share this!!