New research published in the journal PLoS ONE says low intensity exercises may be more beneficial to you than those short, intense workouts.
Researchers found, after studying 18 normal-weight 19- to 24-year-old participants, that long periods of low intensity exercise may help to improve insulin and lipid levels more than those short bursts of intense activity exercises. These longer exercises can include standing and walking for longer periods of time, which showed to improve insulin sensitivity and blood lipid levels more than an hour of intense exercise did each day, even if the calories spent in both forms of exercise were the same.
After each regime, the researchers tracked each of the participants' insulin and blood lipid levels. Once the study ended, the authors found that when participants were exercising vigorously for one hour a day, cholesterol and lipid levels improved slightly. The study found that being active simply by standing or walking for long periods of time improved insulin levels compared to both a strictly sedentary lifestyle, and one with an hour of exercise each day.
Authors of the study concluded that when energy expenditure is equivalent, longer durations of low-intensity exercise may offer more benefits than shorter periods of intense activity.
He also mentioned that the researchers did not investigate the effect of different mode of physical activity on muscle growth, so he could not say whether their research should change the way we currently think about muscle gaining workouts. Similarly, another study reported on redOrbit at the end of January found that just small amounts of activity can be just as good as a trip to the gym.
It is known that well-trained endurance athletes have an increased capacity to oxidise fatty acids. Fats are stored mostly in (subcutaneous) adipose tissue, but we also have small stores in the muscle itself (intramuscular triglycerides). Exercise intensity – One of the most important factors that determines the rate of fat oxidation during exercise is the intensity. Endurance athletes have often used exercise without breakfast as a way to increase the fat-oxidative capacity of the muscle.
When training was conducted in the fasted state, the researchers observed a decrease in muscle glycogen use, while the activity of various proteins involved in fat metabolism was increased.
Duration of exercise – It has long been established that oxidation becomes increasingly important as exercise progresses. Gender differences – Although some studies in the literature have found no gender differences in metabolism, the majority of studies now indicate higher rates of fat oxidation in women. At present, the only proven way to increase fat oxidation during exercise is to perform regular physical activity. 30-60 minutes) can increase fat oxidation rates and cause favourable enzymatic changes(10). In one study we investigated maximal rates of fat oxidation in 300 subjects with varying fitness levels. Fat burning is often associated with weight loss, decreases in body fat and increases in lean body mass. Higher fat oxidation rates during exercise are generally reflective of good training status, whereas low fat oxidation rates might be related to obesity and insulin resistance. A combination of both low- and high-intensity training might be the ideal mix for losing weight. The results of a 2010 study suggest that low-intensity exercise is more effective for weight loss than high-intensity exercise.
In this study, conducted by researchers at the University of Udine, Italy, 20 obese adolescents were placed on a diet and exercise program for three weeks. So there you have it: low-intensity exercise is more effective for weight loss than high-intensity exercise. What’s more, even the 70 percent VO2 max intensity at which members of the high-intensity group exercised in this study is not particularly high. In fact, one recent study reported significantly greater total fat loss in a group of individuals placed on a very high-intensity interval training program than in a group of individuals who performed much longer workouts at moderate intensity, even though both groups burned equal calories during the workouts themselves. What they did find, however, was that VO2 max improved in the high-intensity exercise group, whereas it did not change in the low-intensity group. For example, suppose you start a running program in which you always run at 70 percent VO2 max, and initially this corresponds to a pace of 10:00 per mile for you. Thus, I believe that if the study under discussion had been, say, 12 weeks long instead of three weeks, and if pace had been adjusted continuously throughout the program to account for fitness improvements in the high-intensity group, the final results would have been reversed: that is, the high-intensity group would have lost more weight than the low-intensity group.
So there you have it: high-intensity exercise is more effective than low-intensity exercise for fat loss. For example, you might only be able to handle five hours of exercise per week on an all-high-intensity exercise program, whereas you could perhaps handle three times that amount on an all-low-intensity program, and you’d surely lose more weight on the latter plan.
High-intensity and low-intensity exercise are like bagels and cream cheese: so much better together than either is alone. Matt Fitzgerald is the author of numerous books, including Racing Weight: How To Get Lean For Peak Performance (VeloPress, 2012).
By training at lower intensity, instead, you burn more fat calories BUT you burn fewer calories overall than you would if, for the same amount of time, you workout at a harder intensity. In other words, if you’re trying to lose weight, even though a higher percentage of fat is being used, a lower amount of fat is lost. To put it differently if you do work at low intensity, you need to increase the time spent exercising to burn more calories. Just the number of fat calories you burn isn’t that important, because if you burn a lot of carb calories, these need to be replaced.
So, even if with a high intensity exercise you’re burning more carb calories and less fat calories, your fat still inevitably gets used. This entire site 2011-2016 TheIronYou and all its contents and photographs herein, unless otherwise specified, are copyrighted by the holder of the site. In the first, they were asked to sit for 14 hours a day and not indulge in any form of exercise, working as a control. However, when the participants were active for longer periods, with a lower intensity, the results improved significantly. Savelberg, Associate Professor of Human Movement Science at Maastricht University, told redOrbit that current advice recommends exercising half an hour of moderate to vigorous physical activity per day.


Researchers from this study reported in the journal American Journal of Health Promotion that these small amounts of exercise, such as switching a ride mower for a push, or doing pushups and sit-ups during commercials instead of sitting, can have significant results.
Fat burning is often associated with weight loss, decreases in body fat and increases in lean body mass, all of which can be advantageous for an athlete. At the onset of exercise, neuronal (beta-adrenergic) stimulation will increase lipolysis (the breakdown of fats into fatty acids and glycerol) in adipose tissue and muscle. Adipose tissue fatty acids have to be transported from the fat cell to the muscle, be transported across the muscle membrane and then be transported across the mitochondrial membrane for oxidation. Lipolysis is affected by many factors but is mostly regulated by hormones (stimulated by catecholamines and inhibited by insulin).
Although several studies have described the relationship between exercise intensity and fat oxidation, only recently was this relationship studied over a wide range of intensities(2). In a group of trained individuals it was found that exercise at moderate intensity (62-63% of VO2max or 70-75% of HRmax) was the optimal intensity for fat oxidation, whereas it was around 50% of VO2max for less trained individuals (2,3). A trained person may have his or her maximal fat oxidation at 70%VO2max or 45%VO2max, and the only way to really find out is to perform one of these Fatmax tests in the laboratory. A diet high in carbohydrate will suppress fat oxidation, and a diet low in carbohydrate will result in high fat oxidation rates.
Recently, a study was performed at the University of Leuven in Belgium, in which scientists investigated the effect of a six-week endurance training programme carried out for three days per week, each session lasting one to two hours(6). During ultra-endurance exercise, fat oxidation can reach peaks of 1 gram per minute, although (as noted in Dietary effects)fat oxidation may be reduced if carbohydrate is ingested before or during exercise.
Fat oxidation has been shown to be higher for a given oxygen uptake during walking and running, compared with cycling(7). In a study that compared 150 men and 150 women over a wide range of exercise intensities, it was shown that the women had higher rates of fat oxidation over the entire range of intensities, and that their fat oxidation peaked at a slightly higher intensity(8). These supplements include caffeine, carnitine, hydroxycitric acid (HCA), chromium, conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), guarana, citrus aurantium, Asian ginseng, cayenne pepper, coleus forskholii, glucomannan, green tea, psyllium and pyruvate. We recently found that green tea extracts increased fat oxidation during exercise by about 20%(4).
It is known that exercise in a hot environment will increase glycogen use and reduce fat oxidation, and something similar can be observed at high altitude. Exercise training will up-regulate the enzymes of the fat oxidation pathways, increase mitochondrial mass, increase blood flow, etc., all of which will enable higher rates of fat oxidation.
However, too little information is available to draw any conclusions about the optimal training programme to achieve these effects.
In this study, we had obese and sedentary individuals, as well as professional cyclists (9). However, it must be noted that such changes in body weight and body composition can only be achieved with a negative energy balance: you have to eat fewer calories than you expend, independent of the fuels you use! On average, fat oxidation peaks at moderate intensities of 50-65%VO2max, depending on the training status of the individuals(2,8), increases with increasing exercise duration, but is suppressed by carbohydrate intake. Half of the subjects engaged in a low-intensity exercise program (at 40 percent VO2 max) while the other half engaged in a high-intensity exercise program (at 70 percent VO2 max). It was discovered that members of the low-intensity exercise group lost 37 percent more weight and almost twice as much fat. Past research has shown that the body’s fat-burning mechanisms do not function as well in obese individuals as in normal-weight individuals, while the fat-burning mechanisms in aerobically fit, normal-weight individuals function exceptionally well.
The 70 percent VO2 max “high” intensity used in the present study simply wasn’t high enough, as the researchers who conducted it found no significant difference in the rates of post-exercise fat burning between the two groups.
In other words, members of the high-intensity group got fitter and members of the low-intensity group did not, despite losing more weight. After several weeks, your fitness will have improved so much that you are able to run, say, 9:30 miles at the same 70 percent VO2 max intensity.
The most effective way to exercise for fat loss is to create a program that combines high-intensity and low-intensity exercise.
You'll also get access to top running content including training plans and stories on gear, nutrition and recovery. This usually refers to lower intensity, lower heart-rate zone exercises aimed to burn more fat-calories than carbs-calories.
And if the carb calories are not compensated with your diet, your body will need to use the fat stored and break it down into carbs. And if even running may cause you to burn a lower percentage of fat, since you burn overall more calories, at the end of the day you’ll still use more fat calories.
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The second regime included a patient sitting for 13 hours a day, and exercising vigorously for 1 hour. In contrast, patients with obesity, insulin resistance and type II diabetes may have an impaired capacity to oxidise fat. Catecholamines such as adrenaline and noradrenaline may also rise and contribute to the stimulation of lipolysis.
The triglycerides stored in muscle undergo similar lipolysis and these fatty acids can be transported into the mitochondria as well. The transport of fatty acids is also dependent on blood supply to the adipose and muscle tissues, as well as the uptake of fatty acids into the muscle and into the mitochondria. In absolute terms, carbohydrate oxidation increases proportionally with exercise intensity, whereas the rate of fat oxidation initially increases, but decreases again at higher exercise intensities (see figure 1). However, in reality, the exact intensity at which fat oxidation peaks may not be that important, because within 5-10% of this intensity (or 10-15 beats per minute), fat oxidation will be similarly high, and only when the intensity is 20% or so higher will fat oxidation drop rapidly (see figure 1). Ingesting carbohydrate in the hours before exercise will raise insulin and subsequently suppress fat oxidation by up to 35%(5) or thereabouts. It is possible, though, that there are small but significant changes in fat metabolism after fasted training; but, in this study, changes in fat oxidation might have been masked by the fact that these subjects received carbohydrate during their experimental trials.
In terms of weight loss, the duration of exercise may be one of the key factors as it is also the most effective way to increase energy expenditure.


The reason for this is not known, but it has been suggested that it is related to the greater power output per muscle fibre in cycling compared to that in running. With few exceptions, there is little evidence that these supplements, which are marketed as fat burners, actually increase fat oxidation during exercise (see table 1).
The mechanisms of this are not well understood but it is likely that the active ingredient in green tea, called epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG – a powerful polyphenol with antioxidant properties) inhibits the enzyme catechol O-methyltransferase (COMT), which is responsible for the breakdown of noradrenaline.
Similarly, when it is extremely cold, and especially when shivering, carbohydrate metabolism appears to be stimulated at the expense of fat metabolism. So are the results relevant to you, as a runner with perhaps only a few extra pounds to lose? After three weeks the changes in weight and fat mass were averaged within the two groups and compared between them. The authors of the study believe this happened because the subjects burned a lot more body fat during low-intensity exercise than during high-intensity exercise, in which they burned mostly carbohydrate. Consequently, runners are able to burn a lot more fat at somewhat higher exercise intensities.
Research has shown that normal-weight and especially fit individuals burn a lot more fat after truly high-intensity exercise, such as interval sessions at 100 percent VO2 max and above, than after low- or moderate-intensity workouts. And after several more weeks, you may find yourself running 9-minute miles at the same intensity. That’s because each type of exercise promotes fat loss in different and complementary ways.
For the third regime, the participants substituted six hours of sitting, with four of walking and two hours of standing. During exercise, a mixture of fatty acids derived from adipocytes and intramuscular stores is used. By inhibiting mobilisation of fatty acids or the transport of these fatty acids, we can reduce fat metabolism. So, although it is often claimed that you have to exercise at low intensities to oxidise fat, this is not necessarily true. Compared with interval training, their fat oxidation (and insulin sensitivity) improved more after four weeks steady-state exercise (three times per week) at an intensity that equalled their individual Fatmax (4).
This effect of insulin on fat oxidation may last as long as six to eight hours after a meal, and this means that the highest fat oxidation rates can be achieved after an overnight fast.
It must also be noted that training after an overnight fast may reduce your exercise capacity and may therefore only be suitable for low- to moderate- intensity exercise sessions. This in turn may result in higher concentrations of noradrenaline and stimulation of lipolysis, making more fatty acids available for oxidation.
Interestingly, although there was a correlation between maximal fat oxidation and maximal oxygen uptake, at an individual level, fitness cannot be used to predict fat oxidation. Current recommendations are mostly focused on increasing energy expenditure and increasing exercise volumes. Walking or running exercise around 50-65% of VO2max seems to be an optimal intensity to oxidise fat. Currently, the only highly effective way to increase fat oxidation is through exercise training, although it is still unclear what the best training regimen is to get the largest improvements. The 40 percent VO2 max intensity at which members of the low-intensity group exercised in this study is nothing more than a brisk walk for the trained runner. The fitter you become, the faster you go at any given intensity, and the faster you go, the more calories you burn per minute at any given intensity. Assuming your total time commitment to running doesn’t change, you’ll be burning far more calories in your training at this point than you were when you started. Also, while high-intensity exercise is more effective for fat loss than low-intensity exercise on a minute-per-minute basis, low-intensity exercise has the greater overall capacity to produce weight loss because it’s possible to do so much more of it.
This accumulation of lipid and its metabolites in the muscle may interfere with the insulin-signalling cascade and cause insulin resistance. There is evidence that shows that trained individuals store more intramuscular fat and use this more as a source of energy during exercise (1).
What this means is that there are some obese individuals that have similar fat oxidation rates to professional cyclists (see figure 2)! Finding the optimal intensity for fat oxidation might aid in losing weight (fat loss) and in weight maintenance, but evidence for this is currently lacking. The duration of exercise, however, plays a crucial role, with an increasing importance of fat oxidation with longer exercise. Finally, it is important to note that there is a very large inter-individual variation in fat oxidation that is only partly explained by the factors mentioned above. We need to go harder than that — somewhere around 55 to 60 percent VO2 max, or a steady jog — to maximize fat burning.
It is therefore important to understand the factors that regulate fat metabolism, and the ways to increase fat oxidation in patients and athletes. The large inter-individual variation is related to factors such as diet and gender, but remains in large part unexplained. This means that although the factors mentioned above can influence fat oxidation, they cannot predict fat oxidation rates in an individual. If exercise is the only intervention used, the main goal is usually to increase energy expenditure and reduce body fat. When combined with a diet programme, however, it is mainly used to counteract the decrease in fat oxidation often seen after weight loss (11).




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