HIIT Is Better Than Continuous Exercise For Reducing Belly Fat, According To New Study

Image by Artem Varnitsin / EyeEm / Getty

HIIT (high-intensity interval training) is making headlines yet again and for a good reason. A new study found that HIIT—intervals of short bursts of high-intensity exercise with a few minutes of recovery—is more effective at reducing belly fat than moderate-intensity exercise in people recovering from a heart attack.

This study is the first to look at the impact of HIIT on body fat in people with cardiovascular disease, and the research will be presented at the American College of Cardiology's 68th Annual Scientific Session.

The researchers compared the outcomes of the two exercise protocols on patients in cardiac rehabilitation at the Mayo Clinic. Both groups participated in three workouts a week for 12 weeks. People in the HIIT group completed a minimum of four intervals of one minute "on" and a few minutes "off" each exercise, and the moderate-intensity group did 30 minutes of walking or biking at a continuous pace.

Those in the high-intensity group lost four more pounds of body fat than the moderate-intensity group, as well as lost an additional inch of fat from their waist and increased their lean muscle.

With the purpose of cardiac rehabilitation being to help people recover and prevent further heart attacks, reducing fat is critical–as excess fat especially around the belly is linked with a higher risk for heart problems.

"HIIT may contribute to better outcomes for patients with abdominal obesity who have cardiovascular risk factors or established heart disease," said Yaoshan Dun, M.D., Ph.D., cardiac rehabilitation specialist at the Mayo Clinic and Xiangya Hospital of Central South University in Changsha, China, and lead author of the study, in a statement.

While this study points explicitly to benefits for people recovering from heart attacks, previous research shows that HIIT also aids in weight loss and improves heart health in healthy individuals. Knowing heart disease is one of the leading causes of death for men and women in the United States, it could be worth adding this heart-healthy exercise to your workout routine, whether you have cardiovascular disease or not.

The best part? It's easy to do HIIT workouts at home! Try this 15-minute no equipment workout designed by Krista Stryker, or create your own routine with exercises like boxer push-ups, sprints, burpees, and jumps.

Ready to learn more about how to unlock the power of food to heal your body, prevent disease & achieve optimal health? Register now for our FREE Functional Nutrition Webinar with Kelly LeVeque.

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