Nothing amps up a workout and keeps boredom at bay like interval training. Since it doesn't require any special equipment, it's easy to incorporate into a regular fitness routine.
Interval training is simply alternating intense exercise with less strenuous activity in the same workout. Depending on the length of the session, more intense activity may last just 30 seconds or several minutes. The pace and frequency of heavier exercise depends on individual fitness and endurance. At any level, though, switching things up results in greater benefits.
Serious athletes have known this for a while now, and they wouldn't exercise any other way. Here are six reasons why you should take up interval training:
1. It's good for your heart.
Recent studies have found that interval training does more for the elasticity of veins and arteries than aerobic exercise alone. Research also proves that it is safe and tolerable for most people who have coronary artery disease.
2. It continues to burn calories even after your workout is over.
Adding bursts of more vigorous exercise burns more calories than continuous aerobics. This can also be applied to walking—alternating a moderate pace with brisk walking or jogging pays off. Not only that, but calories continue to burn for up to two hours after interval training.
3. It results in the right kind of weight loss.
Since the 1990s, studies have shown that interval training results in weight loss. Now there is solid evidence that exercising with intervals of greater intensity reduces body fat and increases muscle mass. According to a recent study in the Journal of Obesity, subjects who started interval training had significantly reduced visceral and abdominal fat after 12 weeks. Lean body mass increased along with aerobic capacity. The subjects made no dietary changes during the 12 weeks.
4. It increases stamina and aerobic capacity.
Picking up the pace for just 60 seconds while jogging results in measurable improvement in blood pressure and mitochondria counts. The whole body benefits from the extra fuel. Over time, increased stamina shows up in a variety of other workouts like swimming and cycling.
Sudden intensified activity also boosts brain power.
5. It Improves maximal oxygen uptake.
Maximal oxygen uptake is also known as VO2 max. It simply refers to the greatest amount of oxygen that an athlete can utilize during a tough workout. The higher the VO2 max, the more efficiently muscles use available oxygen in the bloodstream. Studies show that interval training increases VO2 max.
One experiment tested people with type 2 diabetes. For four months, participants who walked at alternating low and high speeds saw enhanced muscle efficiency and decreased fat mass. Just one session of interval training also lowered participants' glucose levels.
6. It provides solid results in less time.
When short periods of intense activity are introduced, low- to moderate-intensity workouts needn't be so long. Comparisons of slow, steady cardio routines and interval training workouts have shown similar benefits.
Fitness professionals advise a gradual introduction to interval training. Rushing into it before the body is primed could result in bone, tendon, or muscle injury. Just one or two short intervals are appropriate to start with. Frequency and duration can be increased when stamina improves. An experienced trainer can advise on the type, timing, and length of intervals.
For elite athletes or casual exercisers, interval training takes workouts to a whole new level.