Does Orangetheory Fitness Work for Weight Loss?

Exercise Bikes
A general view of the Team New Zealand gym set up in the basement of their accomodation in the Athletes Village ahead of the 2018 Commonwealth Games. Orangetheory utilizes bikes in the classes. DAN MULLAN/GETTY IMAGES

Orangetheory Fitness, the fitness program that claims to help participants burn calories even after the workout ends, has gained popularity among the fitness and weight loss communities.

However, the question remains for those wanting to reduce: Are trendy fitness programs like OTF the best path for a weight loss journey?

The fitness franchise is quickly growing across the world. The first studio opened in 2010 and now, eight years later, the CEO Dave Long told the Franchise Times that they are opening up six new locations each week. Orangetheory Fitness, which regulars just refer to as "OTF," uses heart rate monitors to track the participants' workouts, so they can maintain a target heart rate zone.

They call the theory behind the program, "Excess Post-Exercise Oxygen Consumption," which they say will help participants to continue to burn calories for up to 36 hours after the workout has ended. Newsweek spoke with the director of the National Center for Weight and Wellness, Scott Kahan, MD., who said the so-called orange zone benefits may not be extensive.

"There's no question that there's an increase in post metabolic rate that occurs to some extent after exercising at a fairly intense level," Dr. Kahan said. "However, the claims exceed what the actual science shows."

"The claims make it seem like there's so much post-exercise calorie burning, in essence, more than what you burn during the exercise itself, and that's just not true. The incremental benefits of post-exercise increased metabolism is a relatively small amount," Dr. Kahan told Newsweek. "It's real, and it's great, but it's relatively small, and I think the advertising makes it seem like it's more than it really is."

The research on extra calories burned after a workout varies greatly. For example, one study from Appalachian State University scientists found that after an intense workout, participants could continue to burn an extra 190 calories over the next 14 hours. Other similar studies have found that only 12 to 30 extra calories were burned, and some showed up to 700 extra calories burned in rare cases.

Orangetheory says participants will burn an estimated 500 to 1,000 calories during the hour-long class, plus an extra 15 to 20 percent more than their standard resting calorie burn.

"I see no kind of evidence suggesting that the Orangetheory specific branded way of getting a certain degree of exercise in any way maximizes post-exercise calorie burning any more than other relatively intense exercises would do," Dr. Kahan said.

But that doesn't mean it's not a good option, Dr. Kahan says.

"I have a number of patients who have tried it or are actively using Orangetheory. Mostly I've heard very positive feedback that it's engaging, and they find it enjoyable," Dr. Kahan said. "Many types of exercise, if it's not a good fit for you, can be boring and challenging. For many people who are engaged with Orangetheory, if it fits for them well, if they find it enjoyable, it has been helpful."