Is HIIT or Running Better for Losing Belly Fat?
Are you confused about whether you should choose HIIT workouts or running to lose belly fat? You’re not alone. This is one of the most highly debated topics in the fitness world. And when it comes to fitness, there’s unquestionably too much information out there.
The short answer is: HIIT workouts burn calories and reduce body fat more efficiently than running. But, it’s not that simple.
First of all, how does fat loss work? Your body stores fat in the form of triglycerides to use for energy. But before they can be burned for energy, they have to be broken down into other components that can enter the bloodstream, called free fatty acids and glycerol. When you exercise, your body uses those free fatty acids and glycerol as fuel. However, they can come from any area, not specifically your belly.
Moreover, most scientific evidence shows that fat loss can’t be targeted to one specific body part, but is rather generalized to the whole body. The good news? High-intensity interval training will help you lose total body fat. That combined with prioritizing exercises that target your core will help you tone your abdomen–of course, maintaining a healthy diet is also key.
So, is HIIT or running better for belly fat? Well, burning targeted fat is not an easy task, but your exercise choices definitely play a role in it. Let’s dive a little deeper into HIIT and running to understand how both work.
All About HIIT
HIIT, or high-intensity interval training, is a workout method that consists of short bursts of exercise performed at your maximum effort. The intervals vary depending on protocol or preference, but they can last anywhere from 20 seconds up to one minute. For instance, you can perform an exercise for 30 seconds and rest for 15 seconds and repeat.
Since HIIT is a training method, it can be applied to both strength and cardiovascular exercises, including running. Now, is HIIT or running better for belly fat? While both have amazing benefits, HIIT is more efficient at burning fat. Here’s why:
What Are the Benefits of HIIT?
- It boosts your endurance: Performing HIIT workouts consistently improves your cardiovascular and respiratory capacity long-term. While endurance training, such as running, helps improve your muscles’ ability to use oxygen, studies have shown that HIIT can do the same in a shorter amount of time.
- It helps you build strength: Most HIIT workouts typically involve different exercises like squats, planks, and burpees, which help you build strength in your entire body.
- It’s time efficient: High-intensity interval training is a great method if you want to stay active but optimize your time–it can burn the same amount of calories (or more) as steady-state cardio in a shorter amount of time. This also applies to fat loss–HIIT workouts can help reduce total and regional fat mass in half the time as steady-state cardio, according to a study published in the Journal of Diabetes Research.
- It trains your entire body: HIIT workouts are also efficient in the sense that they work many different muscles in a single session. Combining different exercises and performing compound exercises gets you a full-body workout even in a short amount of time.
- It has an afterburn effect: Steady-state cardio can burn a lot of calories while you’re doing it, but after you’re done, your calorie burn goes back to normal. HIIT, on the other hand, has an afterburn effect, also known as post-exercise oxygen consumption. This means your body continues to burn calories for 24 to 48 hours after you’re done exercising.
Who Is HIIT For?
Although most people can perform HIIT workouts and benefit from them, it can have risks for people with cardiovascular conditions, people with respiratory problems, people who take blood pressure medications, and pregnant women.
If you have any injuries to joints or tendons, you shouldn’t do HIIT workouts either.
All About Running
Running is a sport that can be performed in different ways, like sprint intervals, long-distance running, or even HIIT. However, it’s commonly performed as moderate-intensity, steady-state cardio.
It is a very versatile activity–to some people, it can simply be a hobby that helps them stay active, but to others, their goal might be running marathons.
What Are the Benefits of Running?
- It boosts your endurance: The cardiovascular benefits of running are very similar to those of HIIT. It trains endurance, which helps improve your muscles’ oxygen consumption, and also helps your body adapt to exercising for longer periods.
- It strengthens your musculoskeletal system: Running strengthens not just many muscles in your lower body, but also in your upper body and core since they’re also involved in running efficiency. Additionally, your tendons, ligaments, and bones also build resilience when you run.
- It gets you outside: Let’s face it–most of us don’t spend enough time outdoors, and therefore don’t receive enough vitamin D. This crucial vitamin helps keep your bones and immune system healthy, and also lifts your mood. Running is a good opportunity to go outside more often and get all those benefits.
- It motivates you to set goals: Running is a sport that requires a lot of training and discipline, and results tend to come gradually in the form of small milestones. This makes it a very rewarding activity and helps you learn to set constant goals, work for them, and celebrate them.
Who is Running For?
Similar to HIIT, running can be done by most people but can have risks for some, such as people with cardiovascular conditions, respiratory conditions, or pregnant women. However, its higher impact on the joints can also make it unfitting for people who are overweight or have injuries or weak bones. In these cases, lower-impact exercises like swimming, cycling, or pilates can be a better choice.
The Lowdown: Is HIIT or Running Better for Belly Fat Loss?
Although it’s clear that both forms of exercise have many benefits–even similar ones–there’s no doubt that HIIT is more efficient than running at burning calories and fat. It’s an option that gets your entire body working and saves you time. Plus, it’s very versatile, allowing you to include both cardio and strength exercises.
Combined with a healthy diet, HIIT workouts are a great way to stay in shape and lose fat. At Sweat 440, we offer HIIT-style group classes that not only have all the benefits of this workout method, but are also incredibly fun! Get your first class at our Miami Beach, Coral Gables, or Brickell studio for free.
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HIIT vs. Running
- It trains your entire body in one session and typically combines cardio and strength exercises, which makes it more efficient at burning fat.
- It’s proven to help reduce total and regional fat mass in half the time as steady-state cardio.
- It has an afterburn effect (post-exercise oxygen consumption), which also helps with fat loss since your body keeps burning calories after you’re done exercising.
- It trains your body to endure long periods of exercising–for instance, to be able to run marathons.
- With the right technique, it strengthens your muscles, tendons, ligaments, and bones.
- It is a very rewarding sport and plays a big role in motivation and mental wellbeing.
Is HIIT or running better for belly fat? The short answer is: HIIT workouts burn calories and help reduce body fat more efficiently than running. But, it’s not that simple. Scientific evidence shows that fat loss can’t be targeted to one specific body part, but is rather generalized to the whole body. However, your exercise choices definitely play a role in it. While running is a very rewarding sport that boosts endurance, high-intensity interval training allows you to do more work in less time. Therefore, it’s more efficient at burning fat than running. Additionally, its versatility allows you to include different types of exercises, so you can include ones that target your core to tone your abdomen. Performing HIIT workouts consistently, combined with a healthy diet, can help you effectively reduce belly fat.