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Fat-Burning Enhanced by Bursts of Speed
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Women lost much more fat cycling when they alternated between sprinting to cruising

by Craig Weatherby

Australian researchers may have found a quicker way to shed extra body fat.

A team at the University of New South Wales (UNSW) tested a different way of exercising, which appears to burn substantially more fat.

The study involved a group of 45 overweight women who cycled three times a week over a 15-week period. The women were divided into two groups:

  • Half did about eight seconds of sprinting on a bike, followed by 12 seconds of exercising lightly, for 20 minutes total.
  • Half exercised at a continuous pace for 40 minutes.

The results, presented at recent meetings of the Australian Heart Foundation and American College of Sports Medicine, showed that the group that alternated sprinting and exercising lightly lost three times as much fat as the women who exercised at a continuous rate. The women who sprinted intermittently lost the most weight, largely from their legs and buttocks.

Lead author Steven Boutcher speculated on the reason in a posting on the UNSW website: “Intermittent sprinting produces high levels of chemical compounds called catecholamines [e.g., serotonin, and dopamine], which allow more fat to be burned from under the skin and within the exercising muscles. The resulting increase in fat oxidation [burning] drives the greater weight loss” (Boutcher S et al 2007).

Dr. Boutcher said this might be applicable to other types of exercise such as swimming, walking, and rowing. 

And he believes that these results hold a positive message for some people who are overweight: “A lot of people are fat despite having a good diet and a high level of physical activity. But being ‘fat and fit’ is much healthier than being lean and unfit.”

“Those overweight people who don’t have excessive fat around their abdomen and don’t have low grade inflammation typically stay healthy and don’t become diabetics. The message that 'fat is awful' is an exaggerated one.” (Boutcher S et al 2007)


  • Boutcher S et al. How to burn more fat, with less effort. University of New South Wales, February 23, 2007. Accessed online February 26, 2007 at

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