Electro-Stimulation with Exercise Ups Caloric Burn, Study Says

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Weight-conscience Americans are always looking for ways to increase their metabolic rate, since a higher level equals increased burning of calories. Researchers at the University of Granada believe they’ve found an effective formula, using electro-stimulation, that will not only increase caloric burn, but also help improve performance.

However, researchers caution that this type of training should be used in tandem with traditional exercise, and not as a substitute.

Scientists assessed 262 individuals after a bout of high-intensity interval training (HIIT) followed by a session of electro-stimulation and found that when combined, the training generated up to 30 percent higher calorie burn than aerobic exercise alone.

Additionally, those who engaged in HIIT plus electro-stimulation experienced increased metabolism in the following days. Specifically, researchers found significant differences in basal oxygen consumption at 60 minutes and 24, 48 and 72 hours after the workout. The group also showed higher levels of lactate concentration in the blood (15.6 mmol.L–1) than after aerobic exercise (2 mmol.L–1) — evidence to support HIIT and electro-stimulation as a viable training stimulus.

Physiology professor Angel Gutierrez Sainz is strident proponent of this approach to training, and insists that 20-minute weekly sessions of HIIT with electro–stimulation “offers extraordinary neurological, metabolic and functional advantages for sedentary people as well as elite athletes suffering from an injury and athletes in training.”

Electro-stimulation has been making headlines in recent years, as it has been previously shown to induce increases in energy expenditure similar to that of exercise. A 2013 paper in the journal of Applied Physiology Nutrition and Metabolism showed that one hour of electrical stimulation increased heart rate, resting energy expenditure and carbohydrate oxidation above resting levels and at slow walking speeds less than 6 km/h.

The method might also improve muscular strength and aid in rehabilitation. In a paper published in Physical Therapy, researchers randomized 20 patients recovering from ACL knee surgery. Ten individuals were assigned traditional strength training exercise five days a week for three weeks. The other half was assigned to an electrical stimulation regimen. Results showed that the electrical stimulation group showed higher muscular strength after the three weeks. The results indicate the technique, researchers claim, should be prescribed as a post-operative rehabilitation.

The results of these three studies have important health implications and suggest that electro-stimulation can be used as a supplement in overweight and rehabilitative populations, to further induce effective cardiovascular, neuromuscular and muscular strength adaptations to physical exercise.

While this method is attracting followers, it'd be prudent to check with a physician or health professional before engaging in the combined procedure. And certainly don't rely on electro-stimulation alone in any attempt to induce weight loss.