Want to supercharge your workout and but you are short on time? Try adding some interval training. Not only will you burn more calories, improve overall conditioning but it will keep your exercise routine from becoming ... well, too routine. The best part is practically anyone can do it, no matter their fitness level. It requires no special equipment. Additionally, it is proven to be just as effective as longer endurance sessions.
What is Interval Training?
Interval training is simply alternating periods of intense exercise with intervals of mild or moderate exercise. For instance, if your exercise of choice is walking, try incorporating short bursts of jogging into your routine. For those who are less fit, try switching between a leisurely pace and periods of brisk walking. The basics of interval training are the same no matter your fitness level, though your approach may differ depending on your fitness goals.
Scientific Proof That Interval Training Works
One minute of intense exercise may be as effective as 45 minutes of moderate training. This was the finding from an interval training experiment conducted by scientists at McMaster University in Ontario. The peer-reviewed study, published in PLOS One involved a selection of young men classified as “out-of-shape.” The men were first screened for baseline cardiac or aerobic conditioning and cellular muscle function.
Group 1 -The first group was prescribed a typical 45-minute endurance workout, three times per week. This included a two-minute warm-up, 40 minutes of moderate cycling and a three-minute cooldown.
Group 2- This group was asked to perform a brief 10-minute routine, three times per week which included a warm up and intermittent bursts of high-intensity cycling (equalling 1 minute) interspersed with recovery cycling and a three-minute cooldown.
Group 3 - The control group was asked to change nothing in their mostly sedentary lifestyle.
The results were astonishing.
Interval Training Wins!
After 12-weeks, participants in Group 1 had logged 27 hours of moderate cycling on the stationary bike, while Group 2 rode six hours with only 36 minutes of strenuous exercise. The findings of the study were enlightening. Both groups experienced nearly identical improvements including,
- Endurance by 20%
- Blood sugar control
- Oxygen consumption
- Muscle tone (at the cellular level)
Not surprisingly, Group 3 saw no benefits or improvements.
Why Interval Training Works
This has to do with the body's natural response to stress. When muscle fibers are stressed by extreme exercise, energy production at the cellular level becomes more efficient. This is the same type of cellular efficiency observed in an elite athlete. In essence, interval training works by tricking your body -- at a fundamental level, into thinking that you are training like a pro. Because of the improved efficiency, more calories are burned, and conditioning improves.
High-intensity interval training HIIT also works by increasing the number of muscle fibers called mitochondria. These are helpful in boosting metabolism because they allow the body to burn more carbohydrates. This process is called cell respiration or aerobic metabolism, and it is the key to improved cardiovascular conditioning.
Are There Any Risks Associated With Interval Training?
There are clear risks associated with interval training, at its most intense level, as it requires pushing the boundaries of what we are capable of physically. These risks can include injury and stress on muscles, joints, and even the heart.
It is important to make certain that your doctor has given you the thumbs-up, before you begin any new exercise program, including interval training. Make certain to follow the best practices for interval training which always starts with a warm-up, short bursts of intensive activity alternating with mandatory recovery phases, and ends with a cool-down. Research shows that potential benefits of interval training are similar to those of longer more time-consuming endurance workouts. This makes regular exercise more appealing to those who are short on time or simply do not enjoy long workouts. Certainly, at the highest intensity, it is not without risk therefore not appropriate for all individuals.