Super Short, Intense Workouts Won’t Help You Lose Weight

Super Short, Intense Workouts Won’t Help You Lose Weight

Super-short workouts sound fantastic. Who wouldn’t want to pack 60 minutes worth of exercise into just 20 minutes — or sometimes even less? But whatever those short workouts do for your fitness, they’re not going to burn the same amount of energy as a longer session, which means they won’t help with weight loss.

Photo by NOAA’s National Ocean Service

Amby Burfoot, writing for Runner’s World, decided to take a look at the numbers.

You can’t get 60 minutes worth of calorie burn from seven or four minutes worth of exercise.

The maths doesn’t even come close. Any runners who exchange their four-times-weekly six-mile runs for four seven-minute workouts are going to burn at least 1000 fewer calories per week. Which will lead to a weight-gain of 12+ pounds in a year. Minimum. In one year. Try multiplying that by a couple of years.

And if you gain 12+ pounds a year, there’s no way your endurance fitness or health is going to be better than it is today. No way. So what exactly have you gained by following a “scientific 7-minute program”? Beats me, though I think you’ll probably have stronger quads, if that turns you on.

Shorter workouts can do a lot for your muscles, but if you seek weight loss you really need a good diet you can follow and exercise that will consume more emergy. Eating less is the simplest way to reduce weight/fat, and compact exercise routines can help build muscle, but you shouldn’t expect them to make you slimmer. You’ll only get more bang for your buck with that approach. Otherwise, you have to put in the time.

Why I Love Shortcuts … And Why They Don’t Work [Runner’s World]


  • I don’t think Amby has taken into account the fact that a shorter workout that targets your largest sets of muscles (For example your legs) can lead to an increase in these muscles which then in turn leads to an increase in your basal metabolic rate. An increase in your basal metabolic rate can make for a very large increase in your total calorific burn as you now have more muscles to support so the body has to burn more to do so.

  • People are generally aiming for either cardio or muscle gain at any one point because your body isn’t capable of responding to both at the same time.

    Yes, there are some metabolism benefits in gaining muscle weight as well as increasing baselines calories your body takes in daily but it seems if your goal is to slim down, this is very roundabout way of going about things.

    • where is the actual evidence that you can only do one at a time or is it just one of those philosophies that gets passed around but not actually tested?

  • 1) It’s a false comparison – he’s looking at a regime aimed at general fitness vs more specialised training for running. I daresay runners aren’t going to benefit from the regime (at least as their main form of training) because it doesn’t actually involve any running.

    2) I wonder where that figure of burning 1000 calories less each week was pulled from.

    • Agreed. Plus he’s not taking into account the increased metabolic rate that continues after the intense exercise has finished.

  • Agreed he doesn’t seem to know that much about exercise physiology ( I’m an exercise physiologist)

  • …This is bollocks. I’ve been doing short, hugely intensen 20-minute workouts every second day for six months, and have lost 13 kg. Unless I’m some superhuman medical marvel, I call bullshit.

  • Even the research/people being quoted does not take into account some very basic facts about intense workout types such as interval training. Let’s see what Adam has to say but in the meantime I have to vote this article down.

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