5 ways to burn more calories doing less exercise

Have you ever heard of high-intensity interval training (HIIT)? Don’t let the words “high intensity” scare you off…

It’s an exercise technique where you alternate between short bursts of intense exercise (about a minute), followed by a recovery period of less intense exercise (about 3 or 4 minutes).

It’s becoming pretty popular nowadays, and it’s easy to understand why. Firstly, you only need to set aside a few minutes, a few days a week — and the benefits are quite impressive.  HIIT can:

  • Help you burn calories for hours after your workout
  • Burn more fat than other types of exercise
  • Lower your blood pressure
  • Balance your blood sugar
  • Improve your cardiovascular health
  • Lower cholesterol
  • Get rid of belly fat
  • Build muscle mass

And get this: HIIT is also one of the best ways to boost your body’s fat crushing hormone, irisin.

But if you’re like me, the words “high intensity” are kind of a turn off. I’ve always preferred low to moderate intensity exercise — like a brisk walk or a relaxing yoga sequence.

If you can relate, then HIIT is the perfect way to finally start turning up the volume on your workouts. Because it’s not “high intensity” the whole time. It includes recovery periods too, which is perfect for someone who’s not exactly heading to Bootcamp classes on a daily basis.

But there is one barrier standing between you and your potentially life-changing new workout regimen: motivation. How do you motivate yourself to start a “high intensity” exercise routine when your workouts usually consist of walking your dog through the park?

Researchers may have an answer for this common dilemma… music.

The motivating power of music

A study published by researchers from the University of British Columbia found that listening to music while you start a new HIIT routine makes the adjustment easier.

It turns out, a lot of people have a hard time embracing high-intensity interval training. And that’s a shame, according to researchers, because regular high-intensity interval training could help people’s health on a massive scale. But that’s where music comes in…

“Newer research has established that as little as 10 minutes of intense HIIT, three times per week can elicit meaningful health benefits,” says study researcher Matthew Stork. “For busy people who may be reluctant to try HIIT for the first time, this research tells us that they can actually enjoy it, and they may be more likely to participate in HIIT again if they try it with music.”

You know what else is cool? According to researchers, if you commit to regular HIIT workouts, you won’t spend as much time exercising in the long run because it’s more efficient. You burn more calories in less time. So grab your headphones and let’s get started…

The recipe for HIIT success

Here’s what you need to do to be successful with HIIT:

  1. Put together a playlist of your favorite high-energy songs.
  2. Pick an intense form of exercise that gets your heart working at 80 percent or more of its maximum rate. As a point of reference, you shouldn’t be able to hold a conversation when you’re doing this type of exercise. An example would be running or sprinting.
  3. Pick a recovery exercise that gets your heart working at 40 to 50 percent of its maximum rate. This should be something you feel very comfortable doing that allows you to recover from your high-intensity exercise. An example would be walking or jogging.
  4. Alternate between your high intensity exercise and your recovery exercise for 20 to 60 minutes. Use a 1:1 ratio. For example, you could jog for three minutes and then walk for three minutes. Or, if you want to try a more intense version, alternate between a full-out sprint for 30 seconds followed by 4 minutes of recovery exercise.
  5. Start with one HIIT workout per week, and gradually build up to two to three per week.

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  1. “High-Intensity Interval Training.” The American College of Sports Medicine. http://www.acsm.org/. Retrieved October 20, 2016.
  2. J. Stork, et al. “Listening to music during sprint interval exercise: The impact on exercise attitudes and intentions.” Journal of Sport Sciences, 2016.


Jenny Smiechowski

By Jenny Smiechowski

Jenny Smiechowski is a Chicago-based freelance writer who specializes in health, nutrition and the environment. Her work has appeared in online and print publications like Chicagoland Gardening magazine, Organic Lifestyle Magazine, BetterLife Magazine, TheFix.com, Hybridcars.com and Seedstock.com.