By Dr. Mercola
If you want to lose belly fat faster, give up that daily jog and sprint instead, a new study found1. That's right—sprinting in short, 8-second bursts followed by a 12-second recovery phase for a total of 20 minutes, three times a week, helped men lose as much four pounds of belly fat in just 12 weeks.
The participants in the study used a stationary bike and saw a 2.6 pound increase in muscle mass in their legs and trunk. Aerobic exercise, such as long distance jogging, will typically not result in a gain of muscle mass. They also improved their aerobic power by 15 percent, and, most importantly, experienced a 17 percent reduction in fat stored around the liver, kidneys, and other internal organs. This is the type of fat associated with heart disease.
According to the featured article in Bloomberg2:
"Sprinting is a very efficient form of exercise and it's fun," said Steve Boutcher, an associate professor in the university's school of medical sciences, who led the study. "Other studies using aerobic exercise, such as continuous jogging, have found that the amount of exercise needed to produce a similar decrease in visceral fat was about 7 hours per week for 14 weeks."
The Many Benefits of High Intensity Interval Training
Exercise is a key factor of optimal health; it's particularly important for controlling your blood sugar and normalizing your insulin levels. I often recommend viewing exercise as a drug that needs to be properly prescribed and "taken" at a proper dosage. When done correctly, exercise can oftentimes act as a substitute for some of the most common drugs used today for things like diabetes, heart disease and depression. All of these conditions will improve with exercise and with the help of an experienced natural health care clinician.
High intensity interval training, which is a core component of my Peak Fitness program, is key for reaping optimal results. This technique uses 8 thirty second sprints, each followed by ninety seconds of recovery. Phil Campbell who is a pioneer in this field really helped me understand and apply high intensity interval training, and it has made a huge difference in my life. An added boon is the fact that it's FAR more time efficient than cardio. All you need is about 20 minutes two or three times a week, compared to an hour or so on the treadmill, several times a week.
Benefits of high intensity interval training include:
Significantly improving your insulin sensitivity, especially if you're on a low-processed-food-, low-sugar/low-grain diet Optimizing your cholesterol ratios, when combined with a proper diet Boosting fat metabolism and optimizing your body fat percentage (as a result of improved conservation of sugar and glycogen in your muscles) Virtually eliminating type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure Naturally boosting your levels of human growth hormone (HGH) Increasing your aerobic capacity
Are You Ready for Sprinting?
While you can turn virtually any exercise into a high intensity exercise, the highest intensity training is sprinting, which is the topic of my video above.
I don't recommend starting out with sprinting if you're severely out of shape however, as you can easily end up getting injured. Several people I know became injured using sprinting as their first foray into high intensity interval training (HIIT). I also injured myself by ignoring the recommendation to stretch properly before sprinting.
As a result, I injured an adductor muscle in one of my hamstrings that caused me pain for about four years. The stretching exercises I demonstrate in the video finally helped me recover, but I suggest you avoid making the same mistake and just do the stretches before you start sprinting.
It's probably easiest to start out on a recumbent bike and then progress to an elliptical before you try sprinting. I'm not a fan of sprinting on a treadmill due to the risks involved. It takes time to get the treadmill up to speed, and if you get exhausted there's the risk you might fall (or get flung) off the machine.
That said, in the featured video, I review a more advanced form of Peak Fitness in which you sprint outdoors. This is really the cheapest form of exercise available as you don't need any equipment or gym membership
If you do it the way I demonstrate, even the shoes are optional and therefore even less expensive. Running barefoot is not only better biomechanically, but it can also help ground you. The free electrons from the earth act as a potent anti-inflammatory. Wet sand is truly ideal for grounding (aka Earthing). I prefer sprinting on the beach for this reason, but you can certainly do it in a park, on a track, or on a street. The principles are all the same.
A Most Crucial Step: the Warm-Up!
Whether you're exercising with or without equipment, it's important to warm up first. But when you choose to sprint there are really important additional stretches that you need to do. While sprinting is a simple form of exercise, I want to strongly warn you: it is also one of the most dangerous.
Unless you are in phenomenal shape and have special training in sprinting, it is really important that you start gradually, and make sure to perform the recommended stretches. I did not follow this advice and when I first started HIIT five years ago. I didn't stretch and wound up tearing one of my hamstring muscles, as I just mentioned, and I had chronic pain as a result. Implementing these stretches helped me to finally recover from that injury.
So bear in mind: If you ignore this stretching recommendation, there is a HIGH likelihood that you will injure yourself. The stretches are so-called Active Isolated Stretches (AIS), not static stretches. For a demonstration of each stretch, please see my video. The stretches include:
- Hamstring I stretch (straight: 10 reps)
- Hamstring II stretch (foot twisted slightly left: 10 reps)
- Hamstring III stretch (foot twisted slightly right: 10 reps)
- Rolling your hamstrings using a foam roller
Ready, Set, Sprint!
Once you've completed your stretching, you're ready to start your sprinting. Again, I recommend sprinting barefoot as long as you can be confident you will not be stepping on sharp objects. Ideally you would run with minimal clothes on during a time of the day that there is UVB. That way you can optimize your vitamin D levels and thus kill two birds with one stone.
I also enjoy the negative ions from the ocean, which is another reason I like running on the beach whenever I can. With respect to running surface, I prefer to run right where the waves come up to and then recede back in the ocean, for two reasons. The sand in that area is typically firmer and easier to run on, and it's also wet and thus provides a better opportunity to get grounded and capture free electrons.
I recommend starting out with a slow jog. After a few minutes, do a few short bursts of sprinting just to make sure you're feeling okay with it before you start going all out.
At the beginning, you want to run a comfortable distance; maybe 50-70 yards. As you get better you can increase the distance to the equivalent of a 20-30 second sprint. I typically don't measure the distance. I simply run as hard as I can and do it to exhaustion. Once I'm warmed up, that's typically about 150 yards or so.
The key here is to start slow and LISTEN TO YOUR BODY.
If you have any pain in your hamstrings, stop immediately so you don't end up with a severe strain. With respect to the number of repetitions, I recommend starting with two or three, over time working your way up to eight. Remember to rest between repetitions until you feel recovered, have caught your breath, and feel you're ready to go full speed again.
Proper form is also important. Many tend to cross their arms in front of their body when they run, which is inefficient and slows you down. It's important to pump your arms as fast as you can and keep your arms at the side of your body, bringing your thumb to your ear and then back down to your hip. If you watch my video you will notice me demonstrating this. It is this pumping action that will drive you forward faster and allow you to generate the benefits of this Peak Fitness exercise.
Also remember to avoid sprint workouts two days in a row. You need to give your body at least two days rest between sessions. Ideally, you shouldn't do high intensity sprinting more than three times a week. I personally do it closer to once a week, occasionally twice. I find as I'm approaching 60 I need more recovery time.
Comments From Extremehands1
One of the active members of our fitness forum is Extremehands1. He is an avid exerciser and also a chiropractic physician. He had been questioning why this promised sprint video was delayed, so I sent him a preview copy. He had some good comments and suggestions so I asked him to create a video, which he did. You can view his insightful information below.