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I am trying to build up some basic fitness from basically zero. But, I have to spend quite some time in front of a computer-screen. Gyms drive me crazy (too many people around...) and running just is not for me (yet... who knows?). What I CAN do, though, is short little workouts during screen-breaks.

But is that even effective? Is, for example, bringing my heartrate up with about a minute of cardio-excercises going to help me burn fat, or am I just going to look silly?

Thanks, Layna

  • What's "short little workouts during screen-breaks". Please describe. – rrirower Aug 15 '16 at 17:05
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It depends what your goals are.

If your goal is exercising to burn fat, then it's possible but you need to exercise enough - it doesn't matter that it'd be split to very short sessions - important is to have enough of such sessions. (Though, I don't say this is the most effective way to burn fat.) In general, to burn fat, you need to have caloric deficit and the best way is to eat less and exercise more than you normally do. If you don't burn fat, you just need to eat a bit less again and train more. Decreasing amount of food and increasing time / intensity (e.g., speed, weight, ...) / ... of exercising. You could burn fat without exercising but food intake would be so low that most people wouldn't feel very well therefore exercising is useful for majority of people when burning fat.

If your goal is exercise for health, then definitely exercising even a minute several times is better than no exercise.

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To burn fat, you simply need to eat less calories than you consume. So if you need 2000 calories, eat less than that and your weight (muscle/fat) will go down. Use resistance if you want to retain as much muscle as possible. That answers the burn-fat tag related question.

As for the cardio, short bursts of high heart rate will be fine. The gym is not the best place for cardio. It is very expensive if you're only there to run. Try to run or bike outside. A lot of people get bored running on a treadmill due to lack of stimulus. Outdoors offers better scenery if you're into that. If you live in the land of eternal winter, you are lucky. Save yourself some money and start shoveling your entrance, that's a pretty good work out.

Another option for cardio is HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training). HIIT will spike your heart rate during a short period of time and then give you a short time to recover before you start over. These sessions can be very short (Mine last about 12 minutes including 2min warm-up and 2min cool-down).

Discussing HIIT vs Steady State cardio is a different question.

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The short answer is 'No', whether your aim is to burn fat or build muscle, both can be achieved by burning a number of calories and breaking a number of muscular tissue respectively, if you manage to burn that number of calories or break that number of tissue in 30 min 1 hour or 4 hours then the workout remains as effective, the means are the important part that will impact on the time you take to reach the goal, as for the other answers that mention eating less in order to burn fat, that's not always the case, a nice diet with high carbohydrate intake can aid in boosting your metabolism so eating less is not always the answer.

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  • Can you explain some of your claims? For example, "if you manage to burn that number of calories or break that number of tissue in 30 min 1 hour or 4 hours then the workout remains as effective". And, your comment on boosting metabolism by increasing carbs. – rrirower Aug 15 '16 at 18:59
  • Sure, let me put you a simple example, say you walk 2 km and burn 1000 calories, if you're able to sprint 500 m and burn 1000 calories too, then you just saved a lot of precious time, now in the other hand, say you do 20 reps of bicep curls with 10 kg and you reach hypertrophy, if you're able to do 10 reps with 15 kg and reach hypertrophy, then you may have cut your routine time to a 3/4, regarding the metabolism, there are certain types of carbs that release fatty acids that actually burn fat! also some of them give you a satisfaction feel and remove the craving for other foods – Daniel Arechiga Aug 15 '16 at 19:18
  • Your reply is somewhat simplistic and seems to be based on speculation and assumptions rather than fact. Can you cite any sources? – rrirower Aug 15 '16 at 19:22

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