Working out 40 minutes straight or in four 10 minute segments?
April 4, 2006 7:26 PM   Subscribe

I use an elliptical trainer for 40 minutes per day. Is there a quantifiable benefit to doing the 40 minutes without a break?

I used to tough it out and slog through the 40 minutes straight, and I would never top 700 calories burnt in that time.

Recently, I've been taking a 1 minute break after every 10 minutes and I'm able to burn more calories on the machine (up to 820 lately). Now I know that I'm taking 43 minutes instead of 40 minutes, but while on the machine I feel like I'm working harder.

I prefer taking the breaks. But should I push a little harder and not take them? By the way, my goal is to lose weight and to get in shape.
posted by visual mechanic to Health & Fitness (10 answers total)
I'm able to burn more calories on the machine

How do you know this data? Using the calorie counter on the machine? Keep in mind that these things can be wildly inaccurate.

I've been taking a 1 minute break...

The breaks are kind of irrelevant compared to the sustained heart rate. If you're taking breaks and going harder, you may be doing more work overall (net benefit). You could also be taking breaks, working harder and not sustaining your heart rate (net loss).

At any rate, you should do what feels better to you. If you still want to measure closely, look at measuring wattage (a more accurate measurement overall), rather than analyzing calorie data.
posted by frogan at 7:32 PM on April 4, 2006

Yeah I do go by the calorie counter, and I also know it's inaccurate. But I was kind of going off of the assumption that it would be inaccurate in the same manner for both with and without breaks, so it's a fair indication that I am working harder.

I also go by heartrate (I use a monitor), the comparable resistence levels I'm able to handle, and the mph count, all of which are "better" when I take breaks.

But of course for the 3 minutes of breaks that I take all of those things are in resting mode.
posted by visual mechanic at 7:37 PM on April 4, 2006

I think you would burn more calories by taking breaks, but you would help build up your cardiovascular stamina by going straight and keeping your heartrate up. Which would in turn let you burn even more calories later on.
posted by delmoi at 7:38 PM on April 4, 2006

If I were you though, I'd go 10 minutes, then slow down for 5 minutes, then another 10 minutes, then so on.

Also, my cheap at-home elliptical is really inaccurate when I first get on. It measures the calories burned by the resistance that it's set too, rather then the resistance that it's actually providing. Since there is a delay before the resistance ticks up, each break I took would make it seem like I burned extra calories, without doing any more work.

I paid $800 for the thing.
posted by delmoi at 7:40 PM on April 4, 2006

What you're doing, although a little more developed, forms the basis for interval training, a method of exercise where you warm up, and then alternate semi-short bursts of expenditure with rest periods, and then a final cool down. It's been shown to burn fat very quickly as well as increase the oxygen intake capacity of your lungs.
posted by invitapriore at 7:41 PM on April 4, 2006

When I took a conditioning class I was told that it's best for your heart not to let your heart rate totally drop while exercising and then bring it back up afterwards. Don't know how much basis in fact that is.

I also would try interval training. Your machine may even have a setting to do this automatically.
posted by grouse at 12:16 AM on April 5, 2006

For what you're doing, there is no benefit to sustaining the work for 40 minutes without a break. Take the breaks if you want to.
posted by OmieWise at 6:20 AM on April 5, 2006

I think you would burn more calories by taking breaks, but you would help build up your cardiovascular stamina by going straight and keeping your heartrate up. Which would in turn let you burn even more calories later on.

Actually, I think that's incorrect. When you go at a slowish, constant pace, your body gets used to it and it takes longer and longer for it to become stressed. But it is by becoming stressed and learning to meet that stress that your body becomes fit. So you get fitter faster by constantly moving that stress line out. Otherwise, you become one of those people who go longer and longer before they feel the burn.

Anecdotally, all my training is interval training (all competitive swim training is), and I promise it'll hurt more & get you in shape faster to move fully into interval training. Good luck.
posted by dame at 6:24 AM on April 5, 2006

Second what invitapriore said about HIIT (high-intensity interval training). There's plenty of information online. The basic idea is that you use short cycles of low-intensity work (jog or walk) alternated with cycles of high-intensity work (sprinting). It's usually something like 30 seconds per cycle, going from 5 to 20 minutes, depending on your level of endurance.

There is a significant amount of literature out there that indicates that this helps increase fitness and burn calories more effectively than working at a single difficulty level until you get tired.
posted by rxrfrx at 7:13 AM on April 5, 2006

I've read varying viewpoints on this, but I follow the belief that two 30 minute periods of exercise at different times of the day are better for fat loss than one 60 minute period.

The thought behind this is that your metabolism stays elevated longer, being stimulated twice for 30 minutes, and you continue to burn fat after stopping each time.

As a practical matter, I've seen this method work well for fitness professionals and their customers. Cardiovascular benefits will certainly differ according to different methods. Up to you to weigh the pros and cons of the different methods and decide what your needs are.
posted by empyrean at 7:19 AM on April 5, 2006

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