Exercise’s Fleeting Afterglow

How excited would you be to discover you could torch additional calories with no additional effort?  Welcome to the world of EPOC!130912_EnduringFitness_0015

What is EPOC?

One of the by-products of physical activity is a phenomenon called EPOC—excess postexercise oxygen consumption.  Very simply put, when we exercise, we consume more oxygen and produce energy and chemical by-products.  At the same time, we increase ventilation, blood circulation, and body temperature above pre-activity levels.

As a result, our metabolism remains high for several minutes to several hours after the exercise bout, resulting in EPOC–the added calories that accompany this post-exercise increase in metabolism.

How long will the EPOC effect last?                                       

Depending on the exercise, it can take from 15 minutes to 48 hours for the body to fully recover to a resting state.

What affects the amount of EPOC?

Exercise intensity is probably the greatest determinant of EPOC.  The harder you work, the more calories you’ll burn for a greater post-exercise period.  Exercise  duration yields the same effect—the longer you exercise, the more EPOC you’ll experience.

What type of exercise causes EPOC?

For several years, experts have recognized that aerobic exercise, or cardio, leads to EPOC.  Recently, some have pushed high-intensity interval training (HIIT) as a way to maximize the EPOC effect.  But a review of research shows that, while HIIT does indeed increase EPOC, the amount is modest, especially at the intensity level most people can tolerate.

In addition to aerobic exercise, resistance training increases EPOC, as well as lean muscle mass (important to keep us strong and self-sufficient as we age).

Can I use EPOC to lose weight?

No.  The numbers just don’t pan out.  Remember, exercise accounts for only 20 – 30% of weight loss for most individuals, and EPOC for only 6 – 15% of that energy cost.  So if your brisk walk burns 150 calories in 30 minutes, your EPOC might account for only 9 – 22 calories.  Researchers agree that the amount of energy used during the exercise bout itself, not the aftermath, is overwhelmingly responsible the for weight maintenance benefit of physical activity.

Bottom line:

I don’t know about you, but if I can burn a few extra calories after exercise, with no additional effort, I’ll take it!  I don’t care if it’s 10 calories or 100.  And because I exercise consistently, over time these numbers could accumulate to keep me in the same (sized) wardrobe for years to come.

Just one more reason to engage in physical activity—most likely the best medicine you’ll ever enjoy! 


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