Want to upgrade your body’s ability to burn fuel more efficiently? Then mix some sprints into your regular workout routine. Scottish researchers found that two weeks of daily high-intensity intervals — six 30-second bursts — is all it takes to get results. The study had 16 young male subjects cycle fast and furiously for brief periods, measuring metabolic impact by how much insulin was needed to break down blood sugar. When subjects were given a sugar pill after the biking sprints, they needed 40% less insulin and had 12% less sugar remaining in the bloodstream (compared to how the body processed the same pill before the high-intensity training).
You can enjoy similar benefits from almost any form of exercise — swimming, running, weight-lifting, etc. — by briefly ramping up to peak effort. Other research found that such 30-second “sprints” can elevate human growth hormone levels by 450%. That may help explain why the harder you work out, the longer you’ll live: Women with a lower exercise capacity were twice as likely to die during an eight-year study.
Bonus: You can also max your metabolism by eating breakfast, lifting weights, and drinking plenty of water.
Published November 1, 2009