Gym reopening: even a single exercise session can help you burn calories more efficiently, research claims

Heading to the gym this week? Research suggests cells burn calories more efficiently, even after one workout session

gym reopening exercise
(Image credit: Getty Images)

We all know that regular exercising can help you burn more calories and lose weight  in the gym (or in your home gym) but according to recent research conducted by the Oregon State University (OSU), even just a single session of moderate intensity aerobic exercise can help your body burn more calories. This means you can hit the freshly reopened gym without having to worry about committing yourself to regular exercising and still see the benefits of that one workout.

As opposed to measuring fatigue levels, the study (opens in new tab) looked at energy consumption on a cellular level. As ScienceDaily reports (opens in new tab), "OSU researchers recruited participants who do not follow a regular exercise routine and had them ride a stationary bike for an hour at a moderate intensity. They biopsied their muscles 15 minutes later to test how efficient the mitochondria were after the exercise was completed and compared those results with a resting day."

gym reopening: person doing ab crunches on the floor in front of a mirror

(Image credit: Getty Images)

What they found is that after the exercise session, "participants' mitochondria burned 12-13% more fat-based fuel and 14-17% more sugar-based fuel." Matt Robinson, lead author on the study said that "while the effects were not drastic, they were consistent". Although the connection between exercise and calorie burning has been established long ago, this study proves that otherwise sedentary people can benefit from exercising, even after just one session.

Better still, they don't even have to crank the intensity up to the max either: study participants were working out around 65% of their maximum effort, meaning they were able to keep the effort consistent for an hour while still being able to keep a conversation without going out of breath. As great as HIIT workouts are, especially older people might not be able to perform them without the risk of injury. Running on a treadmill or pedalling away on an elliptical trainer in the gym or at home might just be enough exercise to kick start cellular metabolism and calorie burning.

That said, even Dr. Robinson emphasised the importance of frequent workouts: "We know that exercise is good for you, in general. But those benefits of that single bout of exercise seem to fade away after a day or two. You get the long-term benefits when you do that exercise again and again and you make it a regular habit".

Matt Kollat
Fitness Editor

Matt is T3's Fitness Editor and covers everything from smart fitness tech to running and workout shoes, home gym equipment, exercise how-tos, nutrition, cycling, and more. His byline appears in several publications, including Techradar (opens in new tab) and Fit&Well (opens in new tab), and he collaborated with other content creators in the past, such as Garage Gym Reviews (opens in new tab). When he isn't working out, he loves roaming the countryside and trying out new podcasting and content creation equipment, including microphones, cameras and more.