This Could be the Best Cardio Workout to Lose Weight
When it comes to the best cardio workout to lose weight, a new study reveals you can burn more body fat while exercising less.
According to a study conducted by training and fitness director Nicholas Rizzo of RunRepeat, you can burn 40% more fat in 60% less time with moderate exercises vs. high-intensity ones.
Rizzo’s research compared the results of sprint interval training (SIT), high-intensity interval training (HIIT), and moderate-intensity continuous training (MICT). The research made use of meta-analysis of more than 70 scientific studies on SIT, HIIT, and MICT.
Rizzo says he wanted to find out what type of cardio exercises are best at burning body fat, and which forms of these cardio exercises are most efficient in terms of time spent doing it. He found out SIT burns 39.95 percent more body that than HIIT, while consuming less time. According to the study, SIT participants exercised 60.84 percent less than HIIT participants but still burned more body fat.
How Does SIT Work as a Cardio Workout to Lose Weight?
SIT, HIIT, and MICT are all forms of cardio workouts. They only differ in their duration and intensity. According to Rizzo, SIT is actually a sub-type of HIIT but differs drastically in a few ways. “In SIT, the intervals of higher intensity training consists of all-out sprints where you are giving 100% of your effort. Because of this extreme intensity, the duration of these intervals is very short,” explains Rizzo.
"Sprint interval training is less of an endurance exercise and more of a maximum effort challenge."
SIT participants are able to exercise in less time yet burn more body fat because the training involves working at a level of intensity that is difficult to sustain. SIT cardio workouts usually have rest intervals that are longer or equal to than that of HIIT cardio workouts, and usually have a much lower work-to-rest ratio.
- Rizzo provided an example of a common SIT cardio workout:
- Do four to six 30-second sprints at an intensity of 10.
- Rest for 2-4 minutes after each sprint.
- Rest period consists of either fully resting (intensity of 0) or low-intensity active recovery such as walking (intensity of 1).
- Do this routine two or three times a week.
“Sprint interval training is less of an endurance exercise and more of a maximum effort challenge,” says Rizzo.
Meanwhile, Rizzo characterizes a common HIIT protocol as something like this:
- Do four to eight sets of 2- to 4-minute sprints at an intensity of 6 to 8.
- Rest for 1 to 3 minutes after each sprint.
- Your rest period should have and active recovery at an intensity of 1 to 3.
- Do this routine this workout 3-4 times per week.
To visually compare the effort and time spent on SIT and HIIT, Rizzo graphed the two methods.
As seen in the two graphs, SIT involves a maximum intensity workout but less time, while HIIT involves a high-intensity workout with longer time. SIT workouts usually consist of only 30-second maximum intensity sprints, while HIIT workouts usually consist of 4-minute high intensity cardio exercise.
Meanwhile, MICT is simply the traditional cardio that everyone is familiar with (running, jogging). For the research, Rizzo considered the following as the average protocol used for MICT:
Average session duration = 40 minutes and 31.8 seconds
Average session intensity = 4
To illustrate MICT’s intensity and duration, Rizzo created the following graph:
SIT Saves a Lot of Time, but Don’t Mistake it for Being Easy.
According to Rizzo, SIT workouts consisted of 81.46% less time sprinting than HIIT workouts, but warns about its intensity.
“Don’t mistake SIT for being easy.”
“This type of intensity training pushes what your body is physically capable of to its limits. Even though the amount of time is so much different, don’t mistake it for being easy,” says Rizzo.
SIT is ideal for people who want to lose weight fast but have a busy schedule. For beginners in SIT, a good stretching and warming up is best before starting the protocols. These will limber up your joints and lessen your chances of sustaining injury.
It is also advisable to have a standard of intensity that you can measure. For example, set a distance that you should cover while sprinting for 30 seconds. You should be able to cover that distance in every repetition to make sure that you are exerting maximum effort every time.
What Makes SIT an Effective Cardio Workout to Lose Weight Fast?
SIT hinges on the science behind your body’s homeostasis, which is what makes it so effective. According to Rizzo, the body constantly attempts to maintain a state of homeostasis, which is like its internal comfort zone.
“Think of homeostasis as your body’s internal comfort zone. It is constantly communicating with itself through a wide variety of feedback loops trying to maintain a state of homeostasis,” says Rizzo.
Rizzo makes use of Newton’s Third Law as a kind of analogy for SIT.
“For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. This applies directly to homeostasis. As you push your body out of homeostasis through exercise, it has to react in an equal and opposite way in order to bring balance back to all interdependent systems within your body,” says Rizzo. “The greater the intensity, the more you are able to push your body out of homeostasis.”
SIT cardio workouts differ for beginners and athletes. For beginners, the sprint duration can be as short as 10 seconds with 4 sprints, repeated twice a week. For athletes, the protocol can consist of 30-second sprints with 4 sprints, repeated three times a week.
To help beginners progress with the sprint interval training, Rizzo has come up with a 12-week program.
According to Rizzo, beginners should increase their intervals every 2 to 3 weeks, but make sure to have adequate rest, which is very important.
“If you continue to show up to your workout still sore and struggling to give your maximum effort, then increase the number of rest days between workouts,” says Rizzo.