Running To Lose Weight – HIIT

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If you are not into it, running to lose weight can be a chore. While running is an excellent form of aerobic exercise which tones the entire body and burns a lot of fat calories, it has it’s drawbacks too.

Running To Lose Weight – The Problems

One drawback is the fact that it’s pretty doggone boring. Sure, you may get some diversion if you run in an area where there is a lot going on. But, if you’re not training for a marathon or something, on the whole, logging miles for no apparent reason, is enough to make you stop at the nearest Starbucks for one of those high priced, high calorie, drinks and reconsider your weight loss program.

Another thing that people have trouble with is the fact that the typical aerobic exercise program takes a good chunk of your free time if you’re going to do it well and going to do it consistently. Whether you’re out pounding the pavement, on the treadmill, or other machine of your choice, let’s face it, you’re going to be there for a while doing the same thing for whatever amount of time you have set aside.

One more thing that tends to come up with the chronic cardio routines is the potential for cumulative trauma to various body parts. Typically the knees and feet when we are talking about running.

To be fair, there are many people out there who don’t have any problem with any of the issues above. But there are others who really have to consider how much time they can devote to a fitness program or may not be able to jump into a typical cardio running program.

Lose Weight By Running -HIIT

High intensity interval training (HIIT) provides an excellent alternative for people who want use their running to lose weight. For those that are unfamiliar with the term, HIIT, is a way of exercising where several short sessions of really intense exercise are alternated with intervals of low intensity activity (or even rest).

Generally HIIT incorporates any movement that can be done intensely for anywhere from 30 seconds to 4 minutes. Because most people can do things like run or cycle for this amount of time, HIIT usually is done with variations of lower extremity rather than upper extremity exercises. For instance, if you are on a treadmill, you increase the intensity of the speed or grade for a specific period of time and then rest for another specific period.

Benefits Of High Intensity Interval Training.

Research has proved that HIIT provides greater overall benefit to the body than typical aerobic exercise as outlined below:

  • Greater capacity to burn fat
  • Greater capacity to burn carbs
  • Improves aerobic capacity
  • Improves power and muscular strength

The medical studies I found typically lasted an hour or more in some cases. However, this is more of an indication of the research structure than exercise requirement. Your HIIT session can last as little as 15 minutes. It depends on your fitness level and exercise objectives

In one study, researchers wanted to study the effects of HIIT on moderately active women and weight loss.  The program lasted 2 weeks consisting of 7 training sessions of HIIT using a stationary bike. The exercise sessions in the study lasted 1 hour consisting of 10, 4 minute bouts of intense cycling and a 2 minute rest in between. The study found that in just 2 weeks the body’s ability to mobilize and then metabolize fat had increased by 36%!

Another study explored the effects of concurrent HIIT and strength training in soccer players. While the study focused on soccer players, I am sure that anyone engaged in regular strenuous activity would have similar results.

This study was made up of 2 sessions of strength training and 2 sessions of HIIT a week over the course of 8 weeks. The training exercises…

“consisted of 4 sets of 6RM (repetition maximum) of high-pull, jump squat, bench press, back half squat, and chin-up exercises. The high-intensity interval training consisted of 16 intervals each of 15-second sprints at 120% of individual maximal aerobic speed interspersed with 15 seconds of rest.”

What researchers found was that concurrent strength training and HIIT produced significant strength gains across the board. In addition, the players’ vertical jump height increased as well as their sprint times in the 10 and 30 meter sprints. All this without increasing body mass.

These results are consistent with most other HIIT studies which have shown that shorter duration high intensity running, cycling, or other aerobic activities will effectively increase your ability to burn fat and improve strength and performance.

HIIT Routines Are Easy To Plan

HIIT is easy to work into any exercise routine. It can be as simple as alternating running and walking during a weekend trip to the park. This same approach can be used if you have access to a treadmill.  But, you don’t have to just use running or walking. You can add sprinting and weight lifting, or sprinting and bodyweight exercises. You’re only limited by your imagination.

To make your HIIT session easy to follow there are many different interval timers that you can get. I recently wrote about the “Gym Boss” Ipod application I use. I like it because it’s simple to make your own timers and modify them for specific exercise routines.

Running to lose weight is still a good way to go. However, if you want to change it up, get rid of some of the monotony and get a lot more benefit in a shorter amount of time, try high intensity interval training, or, HIIT.

Creative Commons License photo credit: Mike Licht,

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21 thoughts on “Running To Lose Weight – HIIT

  1. Hiit is fantastic for fitness & losing weight, in fact its so effective I can only do a couple sessions per week.
    What I like about if you don’t like running as you said then do it on machine so some times I alternate and do some on a stepper or bike!

  2. I think your post was actually a solid beginning to a potential series of write ups about this topic. Most users pretend to comprehend what they are talking about when it comes to this topic and in reality, very few people actually get it. You seem to understand it however, so I think you should start writing more. Thanks a lot!

  3. Bryan,
    I like the look of your site. You can tell that you are passionate about this stuff! I agree that HIIT is amazing, and the most efficient way to burn fat. I have recently started to run again as a social workout, but when I am going strictly for the fat burn, I like using HIIT on the treadmill or the track. Keep up the good work.


    • That’s a good question Mike. A lot of people, especially those that are overweight have to consider how much stress they put on their joints. The thing about HIIT is that it’s a method of exercising rather than a specific type of exercise. Theoretically you can do a HIIT routine with any movement involving arms or legs.
      So, to answer your question, you can substitute cycling for running. Or, walking on flats to walking on a grade one a treadmill if that isn’t too much for the knees. Generally, people who have knee problems do much better when they don’t have to weight bear. But, you can also get an arm HIIT program going. If you go to a gym that has an “arm bike” or UBE, you can use that to burn calories and get your heart rate up.
      For people with “knee problems” one thing is to consider if there are some muscle imbalances, rather than actual joint degradation, that is contributing/causing knee pain. If so, this is a relatively simple fix for a good physical therapist.
      For a really extreme HIIT workout check out this video:
      Or, this video:

      Thanks for the question,

  4. I was an novice runner back in 2002-2004. We ran mostly 5 Ks in the beginning but worked our way up to a 15K. Training for that took a lot out of me and left me with a ton of over use injuries, including shin splints. 6 years later, I still have some of the issues from the muscle imbalances I got from those days. These days I still don’t run, even using HIIT. But I find a ton of other ways to do HIIT. Some of my favorites are bodyweight cardio and battling ropes. No matter what form of HIIT you chose to do though, it is superior to long, slow cardio for fat loss. But if you like running for the sake of running, by all means, have at it!

    • Sorry to hear that you still have to deal with the overuse injuries. I’ve seen a lot of them in my practice and I know how long it takes to heal them. You make a good point in that the HIIT principle can be used in a lot of different ways. Thanks for the comment and I have seen your blog and recommend it to all visitors.

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  6. For fast weight loss, HIIT is the way to go. It takes less time. It burns more fat both during and after exercise. It can be used with numerous exercises or a combination of exercises in a circuit. The only possible problem with it is that it’s not for the faint of heart. Human nature is to take the path of least resistance which is steady-state cardio, for most people. Don’t be like most people. Get out of your comfort zone and get on the road to fast weight loss with HIIT.

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