“Where did January and February go?” my friend asked the other day when I phoned him on my drive to Los Angeles. “I’m not complaining because winter has been brutal, but… Can it really be March already?”
As the weather so often reminds us, time passes quickly. In Palms Springs where I live, we don’t see much winter. Chicago, where my friend resides, just survived a particularly frigid, blustery last few months.
Spring’s almost here, even if your city doesn’t currently feel like it. Whereas winter allows baggy sweaters, “relaxed fit” jeans, and loose-fitting pants to conceal those added pounds, warmer weather isn’t so lenient. As the temperature increases, you’ll soon find yourself wearing sleeveless camis, fitted T-shirts, swimwear, and other skin-baring attire.
Along with a clean diet, the right exercise can help get you lean and toned for spring. Yet if you’re like me, you don’t have hours every day to hit the gym. That’s why I love burst training, or high-intensity interval training (HIIT): It can give you an effective, efficient workout in just minutes a day.
“Why do you promote burst training so much?” someone recently asked me. Well, it’s got a ton of science to back it up, you can do it nearly anywhere from a park hill to a hotel stairwell, and you can knock it out in minutes a day.
Oh yeah, and it works. I’ve used burst training for decades with my clients because it gets fast, impressive results. Here are just a few of the reasons I make it part of every exercise regimen.
Why Burst Training is the Perfect Fat Loss Exercise
1. Burst Training Helps your Body Adapt to Stress
While all exercise raises cortisol, this stress hormone can work for or against you depending on what you’re doing.
“Cortisol is the Jekyll-and-Hyde hormone because it can be your best friend or worst enemy when it comes to fat loss,” says Dr. Jade Teta, co-author of The Metabolic Effect Diet. “Long-duration cardiovascular exercise increases cortisol, but never breaches the intensity threshold necessary to get trigger [fat-burning hormones] like human growth hormone (HGH) and testosterone.” (More on HGH in a minute.) Chronically elevated cortisol can lead to muscle breakdown and fat storage.
On the other hand, burst training raises those anabolic (building) hormones like testosterone and HGH, which increases fat burning. Burst training also teaches your body to better handle stress and recover more effectively.
Related: 5 Unexpected Ways to Manage Stress
2. Burst Training Promotes Post-Workout Fat Burning
Sure, you’re burning fat while you ride that treadmill, but the lower intensity doesn’t require any metabolic post-exercise repair. Because fat burning and metabolism are not enhanced post-workout, you get limited overall metabolic benefits.
Put another way: the more intense your exercise, the bigger metabolic cost you create when you’re done. Burst training is your ticket for fat loss and fast metabolism.
3. Bust Training Raises Human Growth Hormone
Repeated, intense bursts raise lactic acid, which spikes human growth hormone (HGH). HGH is your “fountain of youth” hormone. It helps you burn more fat, boosts your immune system, increases testosterone levels, and decreases inflammation.
Want a one-two punch to increase GH? Get an uninterrupted eight hours of sleep every night and then do burst training three or four times a week.
4. Burst Training Reduces your Risk for Chronic Diseases
Fat isn’t just an aesthetic issue: it can also contribute to numerous problems like diabetes. HIIT can help reduce your risk for these and other diseases.
One study in the American Journal of Cardiovascular Disease concluded that, compared with endurance training, HIIT was an effective way to control and prevent hypertension.
According to my friend Dr. Mark Hyman, author of The Blood Sugar Solution, 24 million people have diabetes, and half of them don’t even know it. Burst training can provide an effective exercise to ameliorate diabetes. A study in the Journal of Applied Physiology, for instance, showed that for people with type 2 diabetes, burst training could rapidly improve glucose control and improve metabolic health.
Dr. Hyman also estimates 60 million people have pre-diabetes, or insulin resistance that paves the path for full-blown diabetes. A study in the journal BMC Endocrine Disorders showed that exercise could help prevent diabetes in otherwise-sedentary younger males. “The efficacy of a high intensity exercise protocol, involving only [a small amount] of work each week, to substantially improve insulin action in young sedentary subjects is remarkable,” researchers noted.
Related: 9 Ways to Stay Healthy for Life
6. Burst Training Saves you Time
Burst training blows the “I don’t have time to exercise” excuse out of the water. After all, you’re looking at 30 minutes max, which even the busiest person can schedule (yes, schedule) into their insanely hectic day.
You don’t need expensive equipment, fancy workout clothes, or a gym membership. Some people favor compact, portable machines like the Xiser, but you can get equally effective burst-training results in your mall stairs or park hill. The worst you can say is that people might look at you funny, but that’s a small price to pay to burn fat and get in peak condition.
Photo by Thomas Hawk