New concepts for weight loss: physical activity changes shape


id-100170394Physical activity is an important tool that can be used to lose weight and get back well-being.

There have been many debates about the most effective way to lose excess body fat.

There are ongoing studies on new methods of exercising that require less time and give very promising results for weight loss.

Losing weight with less effort is feasible for everybody.

One of the new concepts about the application of physical activity is varying the intensity while exercising (changes in rhythm, repetitions, resting times and so on), mimicking the behavior of the Paleolithic hunter, able to run for a long time, with sudden movements and intense reactions to different stimuli (for example, beasts, dangers and so on) for a short time.

Studies on the optimization of physical activity discovered what is called High Intensity Intermittent Exercise (HIIE). In one of our recent articles, we have already mentioned the principle of HIIE, and there is scientific evidence supporting success with different programs.

One of the programs was first published by an Australian group (Trapp EG et al, Int J Obes (Lond). 2008 Apr;32(4):684-91. doi: 10.1038/sj.ijo.0803781. Epub 2008 Jan 15) who obtained highly significant results in losing weight, especially fat on the abdomen, trunk and subcutaneous areas. They followed two groups of women for 15 weeks: the first one, the “sprint group”, were women who were biking 3 times a week for 20 minutes, alternating 8 seconds of intense pedaling with 12 seconds of relaxing pedaling. The second group cycled for 20 minutes at a medium constant intensity. After a 15-week period, only the first group, the “sprint” group”, had significant weight loss, mainly fat mass and abdominal fat, and everyone easily accepted the alternate effort.

A previous study, published in 2003, had already emphasized the loss of abdominal fat in insulin-resistant and diabetic subjects who added to their physical activity program a session of high intensity exercise once a week. The results prove that this kind of program might be extremely helpful in insulin-resistant subjects.

A more recent study, published in 2012, compared two groups of overweight subjects followed over a 3 months period. Both groups were biking 3 times a week for a 20-minute session each time; the difference was that the first group was biking for 20 minutes at medium intensity and the second group was biking for 20 minutes alternating the intensity, 8 seconds very high and 12 seconds at a more relaxed speed.

The comparison showed that the second group had a significant loss of fat in the abdomen and the trunk. The study also highlighted that while the weight loss was evident after 12 weeks, the reduction in the waistline was already significant after only 6 weeks.

There is no specific formula to HIIE, and personally I prefer longer repetitions and medium long rest. The possible combinations of programs could be adapted to everybody’s needs.

Among the most used programs we mention:

  1. 1 minute of intense effort (push-ups or fast running) alternating with 2 minutes of medium intense effort (brisk walking for example) for 10 minutes (a total of 3-4 daily repetitions).
  2. 30 seconds of high intensity exercise (swimming, running, biking) alternating with 2 minutes of medium intensity exercise repeated three times for a total of 25 minutes of exercise per session, 3 times per week.
  3. 20 minutes of cycling alternating 10 seconds of high intensity exercise with 10 seconds of light exercise, three times per week.
  4. High intensity exercise for at least 10 seconds alternating with an active recovery time (again brisk walking, for instance) of a maximum of 4 minutes, for a total of 20-30 minutes.

Usually a HIIE session starts with a warm up period and can burn a significant amount of calories and most of all, fat mass.

We suggest that you talk to your doctor before you start an HIIE exercise program although the total effort of this program could be comparable only to brisk walking.

Long aerobic workouts have been promoted to burn more calories but HIIE burns fat more effectively especially the abdominal and visceral one. This leads to interesting choice perspectives on how to find a balance between maximizing your busy schedule and getting back in shape through physical activity.

In our center (SMA Milano) we recommend HIIE program for overweight and obese subjects as one of the possible options in specific therapeutic programs to get back in shape and get well-being.