Take a break, burn more fat

We've all done it — faced the prospect of a long workout and then balked at doing anything at all. Sometimes spending a whole hour moving one foot in front of the other seems way harder than pouring a second cup of coffee or relaxing in a lawn chair, feeling the sun warming up your toes.

Yeah, we've been advised that we should get at least 30 minutes of moderate physical activity every day — preferably an hour. But — unless you're a finely-tuned athletic machine — who can keep it going for an hour?

Well, take heart. New research suggests that it might be all right to sandwich that hour-long workout around a nice, relaxing 20-minute break.

Japanese researchers compared two exercise methods — working out for one long block of time and breaking up the same workout with a rest period in the middle. Lead researcher Kazushige Goto said the team found that breaking up the workout with a rest period appeared to burn fat more effectively.

Each of the subjects — seven men in their mid-20s — performed three separate trials using a cycling machine:

  • One single bout of 60-minute exercise followed with a 60-min recovery period.
  • Two bouts of 30-minute exercise with a 20-minute rest after the first 30-minute bout, along with a 60-minute recovery period at the end.
  • One 60-minute rest period.

The researchers monitored them as they exercised and as they rested. The results suggested greater benefits for the group who took a break while doing their hour-long workout.

Goto and his team of researchers aren't done with this study. They're looking at expanding the parameters to see if different combinations of workout and rest might achieve better results for people looking to maintain or lose weight.

Those weekly long runs that I include in my workout schedule are easier to get through when they're broken up by regular water breaks of a few minutes. It's often easier to break down a workout into manageable chunks — as long as you don't spend that break sitting in a lawn chair contemplating just how warm that sun's making your toes feel.