The Benefit of Greater Exercise Intensity

By John Voelz – Doctor of Physical Therapy


One of the most common questions here at Healthy Habits is……”what’s the best way to burn up calories and lose weight?” Obviously diet and exercise becomes the most common and logical answer. “Decreasing caloric intake and increasing caloric expenditure” is the more technical response.

But what is the right type of activity needed to use up those calories and lose pounds? Some will say that long duration, low intensity exercise is best because you use so many more calories over such a period of time. However, more and more research in weight loss points toward shorter bursts of higher intensity activity as being the most beneficial when trying to lose weight.

According to a recent study in the American Journal of Health Promotion, a few minutes of repeated brisk activity can add up and decrease body weight more efficiently than longer, sustained, low intensity activity. When your muscles work a little harder for a short time, more calories are used for energy. As these short bouts of activity add up throughout the day, they result in greater overall caloric expenditure. You don’t even have to go to the gym to get this benefit. When you’re working or running daily errands, try to take the stairs instead of the elevator…….you can even make it a habit to park your car at the rear of the parking lot and take a brisk walk to the door — it all adds up.

Many of you working with me in the fitness center have noticed something……..I start your program with lower intensity, longer duration, non-weight bearing activity. Then later you find that I decrease your time on certain machines but increase the speed, elevation, and intensity. You end up working harder for shorter periods of time. It’s much more productive and efficient.

That’s where I like to take you once I’m sure you’re able to tolerate it. For example, walking on the treadmill for a shorter time but at a greater speed and a higher incline will use more calories than walking slower on a flat surface. Even using the seated cross trainers and elliptical trainers with more resistance for fewer minutes will stimulate greater calorie usage.

So try to steer your activity in a more efficient direction…….shorter and repeated doses of higher intensity activity. If you want some extra hints, please stop in, and I’ll be glad to show you a few alternatives.

karinThe Benefit of Greater Exercise Intensity

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