You can trim 3.5cm from your tummy in six weeks and it doesn’t re­quire hours at the gym – you just need to pick up the pace. Ex­er­cise ex­pert Dr Steve Boutcher ex­plains how

Sunday Mail - Body and Soul - - FRONT PAGE -

For more than 10 years, I’ve been in­volved in re­search at the Univer­sity of New South Wales into weight loss and dif­fer­ent types of ex­er­cise. What we’ve found is that in­ter­val sprint­ing is by far the most ef­fec­tive method for los­ing belly fat and you only need to do three 20-minute ses­sions a week – that’s just one hour of ex­er­cise a week. In­ter­val sprint­ing is typ­i­cally a short burst of ex­er­cise at near all-out in­ten­sity, fol­lowed by low-in­ten­sity ex­er­cise, which is re­peated again and again. It can be ap­plied to many types of ex­er­cise, in­clud­ing cy­cling, run­ning, row­ing, box­ing and skip­ping. We use an eight-sec­ond sprint fol­lowed by 12 seconds of low-in­ten­sity ex­er­cise for a pe­riod of 20 min­utes.

In stud­ies of both men and women do­ing one hour of in­ter­val sprint­ing a week, after six weeks par­tic­i­pants had lost 3.5cm from their waist and main­tained that loss after 12 weeks. Do­ing aer­o­bic ex­er­cise, such as jog­ging or swimming, can also re­duce the amount of belly fat but it takes at least five hours a week at a mod­er­ately hard in­ten­sity.

Even then the re­sults aren’t as good as in­ter­val sprint­ing. The av­er­age loss of waist­line after 70 hours of aer­o­bic ex­er­cise is just 2cm. And re­sis­tance ex­er­cise by it­self doesn’t seem to re­duce belly fat in most peo­ple.

Sci­ence isn’t en­tirely sure why in­ter­val sprint­ing works so well on belly fat, but it’s thought that the fast mus­cle move­ments and el­e­vated heart rate in­creases the amount and im­proves the per­for­mance of par­tic­u­lar fat-burn­ing hor­mones in the body (such as cat­e­cholamines). As a re­sult of this, fat-burn­ing is sig­nif­i­cantly in­creased.

Sci­ence has shown that in­ter­val sprint­ing also im­proves aer­o­bic fit­ness and mus­cle mass while de­creas­ing in­sulin re­sis­tance, so the ben­e­fits ex­tend way beyond your waist­line.

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