What is the most effective form of exercise to burn fat mass?

HIIT vs. Steady State vs. Resistance Training vs. Functional Training… The list goes on and on. The age-old question of how to best burn fat is one that does not have a well-defined answer. With so many forms of exercise out there, how are you to know what is going to help achieve your goals the fastest? Let’s have a look at the research and see what the experts say.

HIIT, or High Intensity Interval Training, is taking the world by storm. It’s being lauded as the most effective and efficient way to burn fat mass. But is it really better than moderate steady-state cardio? Recent studies have shown that although HIIT improves aerobic output and cardiorespiratory fitness at a greater rate than moderate intensity cardio, it is not more effective at burning fat mass overall (1). While studies show a significant reduction in fat mass overall, HIIT showed smaller changes in fat reduction. However, HIIT does serve as a more time-efficient approach, so for those of you who are trying to lose fat and struggle to fit your training in, HIIT might be the right approach for you.

But what about weight training? Research suggests that weight training (E.g. 3 sets, 10 reps and 8-10 exercises with 1 min rest between sets) has very little impact on fat mass reduction, particularly in comparison to the above-mentioned modalities (2). However, it does serve as an effective tool in the prevention of loss of lean mass when trying to reduce fat mass.

However, one underlying theme that can be found in all research is that the most effective form of exercise is the type that you are most likely to adhere to. If you don’t like what you’re doing, you don’t need to force yourself! Tailor your exercise to what you enjoy so that you can make sure you keep consistency and see results.

It all comes down to what approach you want to take, and what you can effectively incorporate into your routine. Among all this, the only conclusion that can truly be drawn is that the exercise that you enjoy and will adhere to most will be the most effective mechanism.

Accredited Exercise Physiologist

1. Keating, S. E., Machan, E. A., O’Connor, H. T., Gerofi, J. A., Sainsbury, A., Caterson, I. D., & Johnson, N. A. (2014). Continuous exercise but not high intensity interval training improves fat distribution in overweight adults. Journal of obesity, 2014.
2. Wadden, T. A., Vogt, R. A., Andersen, R. E., Bartlett, S. J., Foster, G. D., Kuehnel, R. H., … & Steen, S. N. (1997). Exercise in the treatment of obesity: effects of four interventions on body composition, resting energy expenditure, appetite, and mood. Journal of consulting and clinical psychology, 65(2), 269.

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