Study finds energy expenditure persists for 14 hours after high-intensity workout

INDIANAPOLIS – When it comes to lasting calorie burn, vigorous-intensity exercise could be the gift that keeps on giving. Research published today by the American College of Sports Medicine reports that a 45-minute bout of vigorous exercise can boost a person’s energy expenditure for up to 14 hours.

Researchers with Appalachian State University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill examined energy expenditure among ten healthy, male participants during two nonconsecutive sessions of 24 hours in the metabolic chamber. During the first session, participants were mostly inactive, but they stood and stretched for two minutes every hour. They could also perform everyday tasks, such as washing their hands and brushing their teeth, as needed. During the second session, participants followed the same routine, but they cycled vigorously (defined as 73 percent maximal oxygen uptake) for 45 minutes at 11 a.m.

“We found that 45 minutes of vigorous exercise caused 190 additional calories to be burned later in the day while the participant was at rest,” said David Nieman, Ph.D., lead investigator of the study. “The calories burned after exercise represent a 37 percent increase in net energy expended compared to no exercise, and these findings may have implications for people trying to lose or manage their weight.”

The increased calorie burn lasted for an average of 14.2 hours after exercise and included the first 3.5 hours of sleep. Participants maintained energy balance during both sessions, so they consumed snacks on exercise day that replaced the calories they burned during exercise.

The study, “A 45-Minute Vigorous Exercise Bout Increases Metabolic Rate for 14 Hours,” is the first to use a metabolic chamber to analyze energy expenditure after a vigorous workout. Metabolic chambers look like normal rooms – with modern amenities such as a bed, sofa, laptop, toilet and sink – but they are highly controlled and capable of measuring energy expenditure through indirect calorimetry. While other studies have used the metabolic chamber to measure energy expenditure after moderate-intensity exercise, Nieman and his team are the first to study the effects of vigorous exercise.

The study was published in the September 2011 issue of Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise®, ACSM’s official scientific journal.

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