Weight loss: Intensity or Duration?

For aerobic exercise (running) am I better off doing short-duration, high intensity jogs (like running as many laps as I can in 10 minutes) or longer, lower-intensity runs (like plodding along comfortably for +45 minutes)? My main interest here is dropping the 15 lbs. or so of fat I’ve put on in the last year, which mainly seems to get stored around my midsection.
Also, what’s a good routine for each sort of exercise, every other day? every third day?


To some extent, neither. Total distance=calories. Go as far as you can in the time you have.

You won’t be able to go at the same intensity every day, you’ll need some easier days otherwise the fatigue builds up until you break down.

I found this article especially illuminating.

Long story short: exercise or diet alone won’t make you thin, it’s a combination of both: You have to exercise more AND eat less to lose weight to create a calorie deficiency. Usually, people exercise more and eat MORE.

The conventional wisdom is that high-intensity exercise builds aerobic conditioning, and lower-intensity exercise burns fat. And 10 minutes of exercise won’t do much of anything. So plan for a bare minimum of 20 minutes, 30 would be better, probably 60 max if you’re just getting started.

Generally the best exercise is one you will actually do, so do something you enjoy. Three-four times a week should be enough. Allow a day of rest in between sessions.

I’m definitely going to adjust some eating habits, my biggest fault is having 6 beers + fast food just before going to bed.

Unfortunately I think you will find as many opinions as there options.

I have recently read that if you can only do one, doing sprints are better. Here are a few articles that claim:


You can easily find others with google.

I would have sworn I booked marked a book that makes the opposite claim, but I can’t find it right now.

It’s basically physics.

Calories = energy. Energy = weight x distance. Given a set distance it requires a given amount of energy to move a certain weight that distance. Makes no difference how fast you move the weight (you just do it in less time).

There’sa caveat - walking is more efficient than running, so running has about a 10% energy overhead. So running a mile will use about 10% more calories than walking a mile.

There’s a lot of bullshit out there, but just remember it’s calorie excess or deficiency which causes weight loss or gain.

Note that exercise also has other benefits beyond weight loss - improved CV health, toning, etc. But the formula for weight loss is just calories, calories, calories. And locomotion is weight x distance = energy.

A beer is 200+ calories. A fast food meal varies, but let’s say 1000. So you’re consuming 2200 calories before going to bed, plus whatever else you eat/drink during the day.

That’s how to get fat quick.

An average male should be consuming about 2000 calories per day total. He shouldn’t be having in excess of his daily requirement just before going to bed.

I think you meant that walking is less efficient than running, so running a mile will use less calories than walking a mile, but I don’t think it’s that high. It is very minimal.

If you want to lose fat, long and slow does the job. When you run fast, your body is not able to use fat for energy, but is limited to stored carbs. Slow jogging is better as far as burning fat. If you want to get into better shape, however, sprints is the fastest way to go. I have no cites at present.

i’ve heard that 1000 calories per day is a good level for weigh reduction dieting.

1000 calories per day of what?

Reduce calories eaten by 1000 or only eat 1000 calories a day? Exercise with the aim of burning 1000 calories (that’s a lot of exercise)?

You won’t lose more than 5 pounds by exercise, 10 IF you’re very lucky, unless you change your ways of eating. For instance, high intensity aerobics burn about 300 calories. So if you did 4 days a week that is only 1200. It would take you three weeks to burn off slightly more than a pound.

Studies indicate that the three main places people overeat are, watching TV, on the computer, or when they are bored.

This means if you’re at the gym you’re less likely to be eating, so this helps out a bit too.

The simple way to achieve your weight loss is like this:

The average person burns 11 calories per pound to stay alive each day.

So if you’re 200 pounds you’re approx using 2,200 calories. If you want to lose 15 pounds simply subtract 15 from your current weight (in this case 200). So you would want to shoot for 185. 185 pounds times 11 is equals to 2,035.

So make a simply reduction in addition to your exercise and eventually you’ll get your weight loss. Not quickly but it will lose you a steady amount.

Incredibly poor science and reasoning at work in the second article.

Sprinters don’t have muscular physiques because of sprinting but because sprinting is a power activity and part of the training is building muscle mass and power. Distance runners don’t have big muscles partly because the sport selects for small builds.

If you look at world class marathoners, you will see well defined musculature and abs, just not as big.

The full training regimen for a world class sprinter will include a very tightly controlled diet as sprinters run little distance in training.

In previous threads, I have pointed out that articles supporting sprinting as a fitness activity have ignored counting time/distance spent warming up/cooling down which can add quite a bit of distance and thus fitness.

Outmoded thinking. You burn more total calories if you run hard for a specific time as opposed to running slow. Burning fat vs. carbs have no effect on long term weight loss, it’s the total calories burned that count.

that would be to consume 1000 calories a day.

You can always find an expert who advocates a system you might like, but it ends up being math. You have to use more units of heat than you take in. You can do it just by eating less. But if you exercise you can lose faster .
Exercise offers other benefits, more muscles, less flab. fun,better toning, and competition. I play racquetball 4 times a week. We play to win and the games are serious ,while we are playing at least. I peel a wet shirt off 4 times a week.
We have a group of mostly oldsters playing. Our players range from 23 to 79 years of age. Our group has been playing for 25 years. The older guys play doubles. We are playing hard racquetball . We are an extremely healthy group. Very few colds, or high blood pressure for example. If you exercise ,you just feel better and are likely healthier.

If you stop doing that I don’t think you’ll have to worry about exercising!

That’s a very tiny amount of food for an average adult male. There are plenty of online calorie recommendations but 2000-3000/day (depending on exact height, weight, activity level and so forth) would be in the ballpark.

You can certainly lose weight by cutting calories drastically - if you were staying at the same weight on a 2500 cal/day intake, doing nothing but chopping it to 1000 cal/day would theoretically put you on pace to lose 3lbs of fat every week. All of the recommendations I’ve ever seen for healthy, maintainable weight loss for someone who is basically healthy to start (that is, not really obese) are in the 1-2lb/week range.

However you still need to get enough actual nutrition to keep your body in good shape and I’d be concerned that a very large reduction in food intake could adversely affect that side of things. I think it’s far better to cut out the junk food, eat a sensible amount of healthy food and increase activity level gradually - that’s also maintainable in the long run which is (IME) the toughest thing about weight loss; anyone can drop X lbs in some amount of time, but doing it in a healthy manner and then keeping it off long-term is the real challenge.

Going back to the OP, every month Runner’s World seems to have some new study showing a completely different trend in “what works best”; one month it’s longer runs at a moderate pace, then next month it’s “run like hell for 20 seconds, rest 10 seconds, repeat for 4 minutes” (that was an actual program)…I started out walking, adding running in gradually, slowly built up my running distances (again, a common recommendation is don’t increase more than about 10%/week) and as I increased the distances that led me naturally to more varied terrain (I’ve no desire to do 10 miles on a track) so hills got into the mix. My speed just built up over time without any conscious effort on my part to “run faster”. Don’t go farther/faster than is comfortable for you or you’ll wind up with nagging injuries. Once you’ve got a good solid base (couple of miles a day, 3-4 times per week) mix things up, you can do sprints or find some gentle hills and run up/walk down those, that kind of thing. I find that the speed work increases my explosiveness (such as it is) and makes the longer runs easier because I’m going at a pace lower than my maximum. Recovery is better for similar reasons.

No, walking is more efficient. When you walk a given distance you burn slightly less calories than if you run the same distance. But it takes you longer to walk so running is better if you have limited time while walking is easier on the body.

This is a generalization if I’ve ever seen one? What kind of ‘aerobics’ and for how long? If it’s step for 30 minutes, sure, I would agree. Aerobic kickboxing for an hour? Way more then 300 calories!

I have long had a problem with this assertion. When you run, on every step you also introduce a vertical component to your movement of maybe an extra inch or two, that isn’t there when you walk.