High-intensity interval training, or HIIT, is the darling of the workout world. It’s easy to see why: it’s quick by definition, usually lasting no longer than 30 minutes; easily done with bodyweight moves and home workout-ready; and it’s crazy effective at burning calories and getting you into shape.
If losing belly fat is your goal, hearing all the hype about HIIT might make you wonder if it’s a good option for targeting fat around your midsection. The answer? While you can’t spot reduce fat anywhere on your body, you certainly can reduce overall body fat through workouts, and our experts agreed that HIIT is one of the most effective ways to do it.
“Reducing belly fat comes down to burning as many calories as possible through exercise,” said exercise physiologist and personal trainer Tom Holland, MS, NSCA-CSCS, ACSM. When you’re doing HIIT, “the idea is that you’re pushing your cardiovascular system and your metabolic system at a much higher rate than you normally would,” explained Michael Fredericson, MD, professor and director of physical medicine and sports medicine at Stanford University. That gives you a number of weight loss benefits.
You Burn Calories After Your Workout
The high-intensity nature of a HIIT workout means you’re torching a significant number of calories as you’re working out — but both experts agreed that the calorie burn continues after the workout as well, thanks to post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC). This is the phenomenon that occurs as your body returns to a normal metabolic rate following a workout. To do that, your body pulls in more oxygen than it usually would while you’re at rest; to process that excess oxygen, your body needs to burn more calories, even when you’ve stopped working out.
HIIT workouts “are like a switch,” Fredericson told POPSUGAR. “They really turn on your metabolic system. It’s processing at a very high rate, and it takes a while for that to calm down.” According to the American Council on Exercise, HIIT is the most effective way to get this afterburn effect, which Fredericson said can last for up to six hours.