For a while now, the general population has assumed that long distance running at low intensity for 30-60 minutes or more would burn more fat in the long run and burn more calories. The most recent studies since 1996 have been showing otherwise. In the exercise physiology world, people's fitness levels are tested by the amount of oxygen they consume per Liter per Minute. The more oxygen one consumes, the fitter they are. Olympic athletes consume about 95-100L/min of Oxygen while State level athletes consume about 60L/min of oxygen.
The goal for ALL athletes is to increase their v02 max or in other words, the maximum oxygen consumption that an individual is able to process. We increase our v02 max through training of course. The more muscle we have, the more oxygen we can consume. The stronger our hearts are, the more oxygen rich blood we can deliver to the oxygen-demanding muscles. The more trained we are, the more mitochondria we have in our cells which generate the energy necessary for working out.
Long distance running has shown to increase a person's v02 max. It has also shown to increase fat. This works on the premise we deplete our fat storage during long bouts of exercise and our beta blocks will send foods we consume post workout to replenish those fat storage systems. Long term runners have also shown an increase in chronic injuries in the knees.
The most effective way to increase a person's v02 max can be done in as short as a 4 minute workout for someone already fit or 12 minutes for someone who has a decent heart capacity and in good health but moderately trained. A doctor named Izumi Tabata did research that showed a method to increase someone's v02 max DRAMATICALLY in less time than the standard long distance running. If a person does an ALL OUT SPRINT for 20 seconds and then takes a 10 second walking break and repeat 8 times, the amount of v02 gain was equivalent to 1/5 of the amount of time running. Basically if you do the 4 minute workout, it is equivalent to a 20 minute run. For some odd reason, doing 3 weeks of tabata, or high intensity interval training (which is what I do and is a little different), at 3 times per week had the same gains as long distance runners who ran at 5 times a week for 8-12 weeks.
Another benefit that is seen through tabata and high intensity internval training (HIIT) is that it is known for sky rocketing your testosterone. I got blood tests on May 18th that measured my testosterone at 604. At June 22nd, my testosterone level came in at 794 and I had put on nearly 20 pounds of lean muscle mass and my bench went up from repping 175lbs to over 235lbs. In addition to HIIT's I do plyometrics which focus on explosive maximum all out movements for the legs. These workouts cut fat insanely quicker than long distance running.
To sum this all up, I agree with you in that intense workouts and sports are the way to go.