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The question: A friend keeps on telling me that Tabata workouts are the best way to lose weight. What do you think of them?

The answer: Tabata intervals are an awesome workout. My clients dread them, which I interpret as an endorsement. They would not hate them if they were not challenging.

If you don't know what Tabata intervals are, don't worry, as they are just being incorporated into mainstream fitness. Tabata is a type of interval workout, which means you alternate periods of intense work with periods of recovery. You can choose any intense exercise, like jumping jacks for example.

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One cycle of Tabata takes four minutes. The four minutes is comprised of eight sets of 20 seconds of intense work followed by 10 seconds of complete rest.

Tabata, like any form of exercise, is not a magic solution for weight loss. Losing weight depends on a number of interconnected factors including genetics, stress management, sleep patterns, exercise and, most importantly, nutrition. Tabata workouts will help you burn a relatively large amount of calories in a short amount of time, but no workout will allow you to lose weight if you are not eating properly.

One way Tabata training can aid in weight loss is by being convenient. Because they're easy to fit into your schedule, it becomes harder to rationalize skipping workouts when you're travelling or busy at work.

Any exercise can be made into a Tabata interval. At home, or in a hotel room, make a Tabata set out of jumping jacks or running the hotel stairs. At the park, use a bench to do step-ups or push-ups. At the gym, you have tons of equipment to choose from, so be creative!

Trainer's tip: Make sure Tabata workouts are appropriate for your fitness level. If you are just starting to work out, or you have a health concern such as high blood pressure or diabetes, I would suggest taking a more moderate approach to exercise. Try walking or light weights. Talk with your doctor to come up with an appropriate program.

Kathleen Trotter has been a personal trainer and Pilates equipment specialist for 10 years. Her website is www.kathleentrotter.com.

Click here to submit your questions. Our Health Experts will answer select questions, which could appear in The Globe and Mail and/or on The Globe and Mail website. Your name will not be published if your question is chosen.

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The content provided in The Globe and Mail's Ask a Health Expert centre is for information purposes only and is neither intended to be relied upon nor to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

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